Boys basketball: Beavercreek beats Springfield, advances to district final

Two weeks ago, the Beavercreek High School boys basketball team lost to Springfield in the unlikeliest of scenarios — a last-second 60-foot heave.

This time around, the Beavers weren’t going to leave any doubt.

Beavercreek jumped out to a 14-1 first quarter lead and beat Springfield 64-44 in a Division I district semifinal game on Friday night at the Vandalia Butler Student Activity Center.

Yousef Saleh scored a game-high 16 points, Mali Harris-Strayhorn had 15 points and Adam Duvall added 12 for the Beavers, who advanced to the district tournament for the first time since 2012.

“We’ve been getting off to these horrible starts,” said Beavers coach Steve Pittman. “Today we got off to a great start and we were able to hold the lead the entire game.”

The second-seeded Beavers will play either Lakota West or Cincinnati Turpin in a D-I district final game at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 8, at Xavier University’s Cintas Center.

In their third meeting of the season, the Beavers didn’t let Springfield hang around, leading by 20 at the half. The loss at Springfield on Feb. 11 fueled the Beavers, Pittman said, causing his team to play with a greater sense of urgency.

“I think it helped us for today because we were on high alert,” he said.

Jordan Howard, who hit the 60-foot game-winner against the Beavers, scored 10 points as Springfield finished its season 12-13. The Wildcats trailed by as many 25 points in the second half. They cut the lead to 13 at one point, but couldn’t get any closer.

“The guys were definitely resilient,” said Wildcats interim head coach Matt Yinger. “That’s a testament to their character. It’s really the story of our season — overcoming adversity, being resilient and trying to fight the good fight every day. Hats off to Beavercreek for coming out the way they did. They set the tone and never looked back. I appreciated the fight that our guys gave, especially in that fourth quarter. Beavercreek just wanted it a little bit more tonight.”

The Wildcats struggled from the field, shooting under 20 percent in the first half, Yinger said. They didn’t hit a 3-pointer until five seconds left in the third quarter.

Springfield cut the lead to 54-41 with about three minutes remaining, but the Beavers went 8-for-10 at the free throw line to seal the victory.

“We knew they were going to fight tooth and nail,” Pittman said. “They’ve done it all year. Playing a team three times in a year is tough. We made shots early and they made shots late.”

Springfield’s basketball program got off to a late start as the football season extended into late November for the first time in school history. The team also faced adversity in mid-January when longtime coach Isaiah Carson was placed on leave after being arrested for domestic violence. The Wildcats were 4-9 on Jan. 21, but won eight of their last 12 games to finish the season 12-13.

“It was a rollercoaster,” Yinger said. “I’m so proud of this senior class for never folding. They could’ve folded and they didn’t fold. That speaks to who they are as young men.”

Pittman, a 1985 Beavercreek graduate who was a part of several postseason runs as an assistant at Thurgood Marshall, has the Beavers program back in the districts for the first time in eight years — in his first year as coach.

“Incredible,” Pittman said. “I don’t know what words to say. It’s just a good feeling, a heck of a feeling.”

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