Boys basketball: Springfield’s defense stifles Fairmont; Wayne up next

With its roster finally back at full strength, the Springfield High School boys basketball team is running on all cylinders where it matters most — the defensive end of the floor.

The Wildcats pressured Fairmont into 23 turnovers Tuesday night, routing the Firebirds 67-44 in a Greater Western Ohio Conference National East Division game.

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“The defensive end is where it starts and ends for Springfield basketball,” said Springfield coach Isaiah Carson. “We executed amazingly and we defended at a high level. Everybody that came in did their job. It was a great team win. It didn’t matter who was in the ball game. That’s what I’ve been waiting for all year.”

Springfield, ranked 15th in the first Associated Press Division I state poll released Monday, improved to 7-3 and 6-0 in the National East Division.

Raheim Moss had a game-high 14 points for Springfield, including multiple highlight-reel dunks. Jalan Minney added 11 points for the Wildcats, whose transition offense was sparked by their tenacious 1-2-2 press. The team has its full rotation intact with the return of post player Raymans Cole, who brought good energy off the bench, Carson said.

“We just flew around, we hit our spots and we executed our defensive assignments,” he said. “For the most part, especially in the first half, we did it without fouling. We set the tone and it was hard for Fairmont to recover.”

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The Firebirds jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead, but Minney scored eight points to give Springfield a 15-8 lead after the first quarter. The Wildcats outscored Fairmont 21-10 in second quarter to take a 36-18 lead into the break. Springfield led by as many as 23 in the second half.

“(Springfield) played an exceptional game, did all the little things really well,” said Fairmont coach Blair Albright. “Their physicality defensively really bothered us. I thought they did a nice job of converging on our drives. We were able to get a lot of good perimeter looks but those didn’t go down.”

The Firebirds (9-3, 4-2 GWOC National East) host Lebanon (4-6, 3-2 GWOC National West) on Friday night.

“We’ve got to turn around and learn from it,” Albright said. “It was an extremely humbling night for us. If you compete in sports long enough, sometimes you’re going to get yourselves humbled. They gave us a good dose of that tonight.”

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The Wildcats face a huge game against rival Wayne (6-5, 4-1 GWOC National East) on Friday night. The Warriors have lost two of three games after earning a huge victory over Trotwood-Madison on Dec. 28. A victory would give Springfield a two-game advantage in the division race.

“It’s the best rivalry in the state of Ohio, in my opinion,” Carson said. “Both teams are going to be up for this game. We’ve just got to be ready and I know we will for a home game against those guys. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

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