For only the second time, Springfield’s surging boys basketball team failed to meet a maximum challenge.
“It’s just a hostile environment here,” junior guard RaHeim Moss said following Friday’s 50-48 loss at rival Centerville. “You know it’s going to be packed out and sold out. You just have to come ready to play.”
The loss dropped Springfield to 15-2 overall and also was its second in Greater Western Ohio Conference National East play, following a 65-62 overtime setback at unbeaten Wayne two weeks ago.
There was no time for the Wildcats to reflect on that. Springfield hosted defending Division I state runner-up Cincinnati Moeller on Saturday night. That was the last of a daunting midseason run in which Springfield played six games in 11 days.
After Moeller, the Wildcats get a break until Friday’s rematch against visiting Wayne. That result likely will determine which of the two area powers earns the No. 1 seed in the upcoming sectional tournament in next weekend’s coaches’ meetings.
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Wayne (17-0), the state’s top-ranked D-I team, has clinched at least a share of the GWOC National East at 10-0 and will win an outright title should it beat Springfield or Centerville in its remaining two divisional games. Springfield (8-2) also has divisional games remaining against Wayne and Fairmont. Centerville (6-2) ends the regular season with four consecutive games that count toward the National East.
Springfield and Centerville appeared headed to another OT thriller. Trailing by six points midway through the fourth quarter, Wildcats senior guard Michael Wallace hit a 3-pointer from the wing to pull the teams even at 48-all with 28.8 seconds left. But he missed the bonus free throw and Centerville took advantage.
Playing for a final shot, Centerville turned to junior guard Ryan Marchal and he delivered what would be the winning shot, a twisting layup through the heart of Springfield’s defense with 2.9 seconds left.
Springfield’s JaJuan Rodgers missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Leonard Taylor hit all four free throws and led Springfield with 12 points. At least three members of the University of Cincinnati football staff were at the game to further woo the 6-foot-7 senior. He is expected to announce his decision and sign a letter of intent during Wednesday’s traditional national signing day for football and soccer.
Moss added 10 points, Rodgers 9 and Wallace 8. Springfield converted just 10 of 19 free throws.
Alex Grandin, Centerville’s outstanding starting quarterback the last two seasons, led the Elks with 16 points, all but two in the second half. He also had four 3-pointers. Marchal scored seven points in the final 1:09 and added 13 total.
Centerville (11-7) was coming off a 44-40 setback to Cincinnati Purcell Marian on Tuesday. Like Springfield, Centerville also faced another high-end challenge on Saturday, losing 46-42 at Toledo St. John’s, ranked No. 6 in the D-I state poll. The Elks lost 49-32 to visiting Moller on Jan. 6.
“Hopefully, this gets us playing consistently at a high level,” said Centerville coach Brook Cupps, previously Graham’s coach. “Springfield’s a great team. We had to play for 32 minutes and I don’t think we’ve done that very often this year.”
• Shawnee completed a sweep of the Central Buckeye Conference division leaders by defeating visiting Urbana 49-39 on Friday. Last weekend Shawnee also stunned visiting Jonathan Alder 42-36.
Shawnee (10-6, 8-2) remains one game behind Alder (14-4, 9-1) in the CBC Kenton Trail Division. Urbana (11-7, 6-4) has a two-game lead over Graham and Indian Lake in the Mad River Division.
• Cade Rice had 20 points and Logan Coppock added 11 as Greenon defeated visiting Southeastern 66-43 in Ohio Heritage Conference play. The Knights are 8-8 on the season and 8-4 in the OHC South Division.
• The girls basketball seed meetings for the upcoming sectionals are Sunday. Springfield-area teams will play tourney games at Troy or Butler (D-I), Tecumseh (D-II), Covington or Trotwood-Madison (D-III), and Monroe, Brookville or Sidney (D-IV).
Boys basketball will have its tourney draws next weekend.