Add another key part to Springfield’s formidable boys basketball lineup: defensive stopper.
That would be David Sanford. The junior drew the ultimate task on Friday night at Fairmont. It was his job to somewhat contain high-scoring Firebird Jack Hendricks.
“It went good,” said Sanford following Springfield’s second-half surge that produced an 81-65 victory at Trent Arena. “I knew he’s a very good shooter. I just knew the game plan, stuck to it and rode it out.”
Springfield was more impressive than ever and that’s saying a lot because the Wildcats improved to 11-0 overall and kept pace with unbeaten and top-ranked Wayne at 6-0 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference National East.
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Hendricks was limited to 13 points, including just two second-half free throws. Consider that a defensive gem by Sanford because Fairmont’s sharpshooter had gone for 29 and 22 points in previous losses to Spire Academy at Flyin’ to the Hoop and at Trotwood-Madison on Tuesday. He also went off for a program-record 52 points just prior to the new year that featured 14 three-pointers.
Fairmont (9-5, 4-3) is tagged with a three-game losing streak and has no letup with home games against Alter and Miamisburg this week.
“The biggest frustration on our end is not being good enough defensively to win against an elite team,” Fairmont coach Blair Albright said. “What it’s done is expose some areas where we have to get much, much better.”
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Tied at halftime, Springfield ratcheted up the defense and unloaded offensively to make it a second-half rout. Leonard Taylor led the Wildcats with 17 points. RaHeim Moss added 14 points and Michael Wallace 13 in his best game since returning in midseason following a knee injury. Larry Stephens and Sanford added 10 apiece.
“To their credit, they’ve got so many guys that can run at you,” Albright said. “So many guys who are talented enough to score for them. They’re a really tough assignment.”
Cade Morgan led Fairmont with 15 points. Ryan Hall added 13 and Kellan Bochenek 12.
Springfield was coming off a 73-67 overtime defeat of Cleveland Heights at Flyin’ and also faces a busy week. The Wildcats were at Chaminade Julienne on Saturday. On Tuesday Springfield faces Dayton City League breakout team Belmont (8-1), then is at Wayne on Wednesday in an anticipated showdown of unbeatens and finally at home Friday against Springboro.
That’s five games in seven days for the Wildcats. The Wayne game was postponed because of weather from Jan. 12. Wayne overtook Upper Arlington as the state’s No. 1 team in Division I last week.
“It’s going to show how tough we are,” Wallace said. “We’ve got to get through it.”
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• This is as deep and loaded of a lineup for Springfield’s boys as any recent Wildcats team. It’s too early to anoint the Wildcats state final four quality, but the potential is there.
Already a super lineup, the Wildcats have double-downed on that success by adding Wallace to the lineup.
“It’s a good thing to see that young man come back,” Springfield coach Isaiah Carson said following the defeat of Fairmont. “He’s earned everything that’s come his way. He’s worked extremely hard these last three years. Now, he’s a senior and he’ll be able to showcase himself and he did a nice job for us (Friday).”
Albright was impressed with the Wildcats’ midseason addition.
“He might have had the best game of anyone on the floor,” he said.
• It’s never too early to stoke up postseason projections. Springfield and Wayne are the GWOC’s best D-I teams and will be seeded 1-2 in the upcoming Dayton sectional. Princeton (10-2), Oak Hills (11-3) and Mason (10-2) are the best in the Greater Miami Conference. Moeller (11-3) is the defending D-I state runner-up and joins St. Xavier (10-4) as the best in the Greater Catholic League South.
Franklin (12-2) bumps up from last season and appears to be the best D-I team in the Southwestern Buckeye League. Whichever of those teams wins the D-I regional and advances to the state final four should be considered a state favorite.
»RELATED: Boys basketball power rankings
• The Urbana boys have overcome a 1-4 season start to take the top spot in the Central Buckeye Conference Mad River division. Urbana defeated visiting Northwestern 71-51 on Friday for its sixth straight win. The Hillclimbers are 9-5 overall and 4-2 in the Mad River division, a half game better than Indian Lake.
Urbana played at Tecumseh on Saturday.
• Like Urbana’s boys, the Benjamin Logan girls have overcome a sluggish start and are now the hottest team in the CBC. Ben Logan followed a 2-0 start by losing five straight. But the Raiders haven’t lost since and took a nine-game win streak and 11-5 overall record to Northwestern on Saturday.
• Trevor Anderson scored 19 points in leading host Greenon to a 61-44 defeat of Mechanicsburg. The Knights are 5-7 overall, their first in the Ohio Heritage Conference South Division since leaving the Central Buckeye Conference.
• Catholic Central’s boys had an 11-game win streak snapped at West Jefferson on Friday, 57-44. The Irish (11-2) hadn’t lost since the season opener at Kenton Ridge.
• No wonder senior Jameel Cosby of Kenton Ridge is the CBC boys scoring leader (19.5). Through 10 games he was shooting a torrid 71 of 119 (59.7 percent) from the floor. Kenton Ridge (7-5) is looking to snap a two-game losing skid at Bellefontaine (7-6) on Tuesday.