In the middle of the defensive chaos, the enthusiastic crowd and a desperate need to get the season on track, Springfield senior Devin Alston came off the bench and was poised enough to remember what his mom and dad told him.
“Play your game, do what you gotta do,” he said. “Pretend like it’s AAU. So I went out there with that mindset and started shooting and knocked down my shots.”
Alston made three consecutive 3-pointers in the final minutes of the first quarter to stake the Wildcats to an 11-point lead over Wayne. He finished the half and game with 15 points. The Wildcats led by 16 at the half, as many as 21 in the third quarter and held off a Wayne comeback for a much-needed 63-53 GWOC American victory.
“He took great shots, he didn’t force them, he felt his rhythm,” Springfield coach Isaiah Carson said. “He was definitely the MVP tonight. We don’t win the game without Devin Alston.”
»RELATED: Friday’s scores, boxscores
Alston is a four-year player in the program who is playing varsity for the first time. He had scored seven points in the Wildcats’ first three games.
“You’ve just got to put in the work every day,” Alston said. “You look to the older guys above you and learn what they learn and you just trust the system and you’ll get your time.”
Springfield (2-2, 1-2 GWOC) couldn’t afford to lose to Wayne (4-2, 3-1) if it wanted to stay in the race for the league title, something the Wildcats have won or shared in two of the past three seasons. The late start because of the football team’s deep playoff run and no varsity scrimmages could no longer be an excuse.
“We had to get back on track,” said senior center Raymans Cole. “We took two losses we should’ve won, so we had to fight back. We’ve got to continue this energy no matter what.”
The Wildcats’ trademark energy and defensive pressure put Wayne on its heels early and often.
“We flew around defensively, especially early — best half of basketball we’ve played,” Carson said.
The Warriors committed 24 turnovers, and the Wildcats’ Larry Stephens held leading scorer Malcolm Curry to six points.
“They came out and got after it early, and we didn’t respond,” said Wayne coach Nathan Martindale, who starts three juniors, a sophomore and a freshman. “We just can’t have 24 turnovers. That’s not how we play.”
Carson has made Stephens, a senior and third-year varsity player, his full-time point guard. Stephens scored 14 points and calmed the ‘Cats after Wayne’s 19-4 run cut their lead to 53-47 in the first minute of the fourth quarter.
“He played like a player of the year in the league tonight, which I think he will be if he continues to improve and get in basketball shape,” Carson said of Stephens, who signed Wednesday to play football at Toledo. “Tonight he was a stud and got us into our progressions instead of just one pass and a shot.”
Carson also liked the way his team shared the ball, and it showed in the boxscore. Also in double figures were Josh Tolliver with 12 points and Cole and Jeff Tolliver with 10 each.
“We’re getting better every day,” Carson said. “We’re not close to where we want to be, but we’re making progress.”
But it’s a night that will be remembered by the team as Devin’s night.
“I just got my first offer for a scholarship offer from Edison State,” Alston said. “It was an amazing night. I thank God for it.”
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