Boys basketball: Young ‘Boro team learning how to win

SPRINGBORO – For three quarters Tuesday night, the Springboro boys basketball team made the right plays. The Panthers made the kind of winning plays new head coach Brian Bales knows are needed to be successful.

Then the fourth quarter happened.

Bales watched his team commit turnover after turnover. He couldn’t believe it when the Panthers didn’t get the rebound on a missed Mason free throw when they still had a chance to win. He wanted them to double team Mason’s Ben Golan in the post. Instead, he scored 10 of his 27 points during a decisive fourth-quarter run.

The fourth quarter erased all the good of the first three quarters and Mason rallied for a 69-63 victory. For 15 years at Franklin, Bales’ teams knew how to win. But now in his first season at Springboro (1-1), he’s trying to teach a young team with no senior starters how to finish.

“We couldn’t have scripted a game better for three quarters,” Bales said. “My heart hurts for them right now because I thought they played well enough for three quarters to win that game. We have to get to where we expect to win.

“I do know about building a program, and you got to learn how to compete. We’re learning to do that every day in practice. But step two is you got to learn how to win. And tonight was a game we had in our grasp.”

The Panthers broke away from a one-point halftime lead with an 11-0 run to lead 48-37. They got to the fourth quarter up 54-46. Then Mason (2-0) outscored them 23-9 in the fourth quarter. Springboro wasn’t full strength with junior point guard Will Yates missing most of the quarter because of leg cramps.

“In the first three quarters you can see the potential that we have,” said sophomore guard R.J. Greer, who scored 18 points to share the team lead with Yates. “We’ve got a lot of guys that play hard. I think we need to learn to win because this program hasn’t had that. We need to play together more and stop worrying about what’s on that scoreboard. We need more people to lead.”

The Panthers have offensive talent and a guard-oriented team with Greer and Yates, who is a junior. Sophomore forward Jerome White added 11 points.

“Will is a hard matchup, and him cramping up late hurt,” Bales said. “He’s quite the playmaker and he can shoot it. R.J. was really, really efficient. They did a nice job of taking him away, and that’s where we got to have another guy step up.”

The most difficult matchup was with the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Golan. His beautiful footwork around the basket reminded Bales of former Celtics great Kevin McHale. But it was also 6-5 Jack Ullom (17 points) and 6-6 Jake Hanley who combined with Golan to dominate everything that happened near the basket.

“We got to come up with something to deal with a team that has three bigs,” Bales said. “They’re a matchup nightmare.”

Still, the Panthers have the first three quarters to build on.

“Every game we’re going to get better,” Greer said. “Just from last game, we played so much better in the first three quarters. We played a good team, but as the games go on we’ll be fine.

“The energy changed around here with Coach Bales. Everybody loves Coach Bales, and everybody responds to him. He’s changed the culture here for sure.”

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