Springfield boys basketball coach Isaiah Carson has been saying for years his team’s success begins and ends with defense. But occasionally the offense demands more attention than RaHeim Moss’s defense-generated highlight-reel dunks.
Friday night’s home sellout had the usual — defense that became offense — but guards David Sanford and Larry Stephens gave the Wildcats what they needed in their half-court offense. Stephens scored 18 points and Sanford 17 in a 72-58 victory over GWOC National East rival Wayne.
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“Those two played extremely well,” Springfield coach Isaiah Carson said. “They took care of the ball, they got us in what we need to get into, made some shots and made their free throws. And they defended well.”
Wayne (6-6, 4-2) got 22 points from Rashad McKee and surprised first-place Springfield (8-3, 7-0) with a 2-3 zone to create a slow pace and limit fast breaks. Stephens hit a pair of 3-pointers to stretch the zone, and the Wildcats began to penetrate it to build a 29-21 halftime lead. A turnover to start the second half led to a Moss dunk. Sanford’s driving layup made it 39-23, and the Wildcats had forced the Warriors to play man-to-man. Getting to run their spread offense meant more layups for Sanford and Stephens and a couple more dunks for Moss, who scored 19, and Springfield stayed comfortably ahead.
“It’s hard to stay in front of our guards, so we’re going to spread you out and do what we do,” Carson said.
Wayne coach Nathan Martindale saw the same thing, especially in the fourth quarter when the Springfield guards kept attacking the basket.
“Springfield is extremely athletic, they play extremely hard, they play well on defense and they took advantage of some things that we have to get better at,” Martindale said. “We did a bad job of help defense down the stretch letting guys get layup, layup, layup, dunk. If you can’t get a stop, you can’t win.”
Sanford got extra playing time last year as a junior because of injuries to starters. That experience has benefited him and the team this year. He’s second behind Moss in scoring at 13 points a game and is tied for second in assists.
“It’s an honor,” said Sanford, who has played with many of his teammates since elementary school. “I get to play with a great group of guys, and they’re like family to me. They know what I do, I know what they do and we get to it.”
The Wildcats have won four straight games with important wins at home this week against Fairmont and Wayne and have a two-game lead with five to play. Carson likes his team’s trajectory and loves the feeling of being in first place.
“The last couple weeks we’ve just been really locked in,” he said. “We’ve been executing what we want to do and it’s showing in the W column and it’s showing on the court … it’s just showing.”