“We had some unfortunate things happen that didn’t go our way, but I felt like in the end our guys fought really hard,” said West Carrollton coach Anthony Parker. “There’s always a lot of talk since the (Greater Western Ohio Conference) split about how tough the GWOC opposed to how weak the (Miami Valley League) is. I think that the very least we proved we’re capable of playing with the top teams around. Make no mistake, Springfield played a heck of a game.”
The Wildcats led by 10 early in the first half, but the Pirates exploded for 35 points in the second quarter to take a 53-48 lead at the half. Howard scored 13 points in the quarter, while Walker added 11 points.
Springfield grabbed a 74-72 lead on a layup by Bradley as time expired in the third quarter.
The Wildcats took an 84-80 lead on a three-point play by Tolliver with three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The Pirates quickly went on an 8-0 run to take an 88-84 lead with about a minute remaining.
After calling a timeout with 43 seconds remaining in regulation, a putback by Barnes pulled the Wildcats to within two points at 88-86. Muhammad then stole the ball and laid it in to tie the score at 88.
“The thing about Eddie is that his length is unbelievable,” McCullough said. “He’s one of our better defenders as far as being able to pick up, bust through a pass and get a steal. I credit him for not giving up on the play, getting a steal and getting the tie.”
Springfield had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, but Muhammad’s shot fell just short.
The Pirates quickly jumped out to a four-point lead early in the overtime, but Springfield reclaimed the lead at 98-95 thanks to two made free throws by Micha Johnson and Fisher.
West Carrollton pulled to within one on a layup by DeShawn Ferguson, but Tolliver made one of two free throws to make it 99-97. Bradley followed with a lay-up to give Springfield a 101-97 lead.
“(Bradley) is the hardest-working young man I can say that I’ve ever coached,” McCullough said. “It speaks to the offers that he’s getting for football and it’s just transitioning into basketball. It’s funny because everybody is starting to get their basketball legs toward the end (of the season). I’m happy for Deli.”
Howard pulled the Pirates to within two points in the final 30 seconds. After calling a timeout with 10.6 seconds remaining, the Pirates weren’t able to get a shot off as time expired.
West Carrollton won the MVL Valley Division title this winter, its first championship in boys basketball since 2005.
“We’ve got something to build on after this season,” Parker said.
A year ago, the Wildcats lost in the semifinals to Beavercreek — breaking a streak of five straight district final appearances. The Wildcats last won a district title in 2019, beating Cincinnati Elder before falling to rival Centerville in the regional semifinals.
Springfield advanced to face Miamisburg, a 57-49 winner over Fairmont, for a third time this season in a district semifinal game at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Centerville. The Wildcats split with the Vikings in the regular season.
“We keep asking them if they want to have a banquet next week or keep playing,” McCullough said. “Just the fight they have in them, I’m very proud of them.”