NEW MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – In tournament basketball it’s “survive and move on”. Friday night at home the Springfield Tigers did just that as they faced a stiff test from Southern Local before they overwhelmed the Indians in the second half for a 62-39 victory. With the win, the Tigers advance to the Division III district semi-finals to face league rival Lisbon Tuesday night at 7:00pm at Salem High School.
But for the first 16 minutes of the contest the Indians put up a furious fight as they played a slower paced half court game, keeping the Tigers from making any runs. The two teams traded the lead back and forth throughout the first half as the Indians led 14-13 after one period of play.
It wasn’t until there was only 3:21 left in the half that the Tigers showed signs of breaking away. With Springfield up by just 1-point at 22-21, Nate Simboli stole a pass and converted a layup followed by another steal by Graham Mincher and two free throws less than a minute later. They would add one more basket to hold a narrow 5-point, 28-23 halftime advantage.
“They showed up and they were ready to play,” Tigers Coach Eric Fender added. “They knocked down some open jumpers in the beginning. I think we started to get a little tense once we saw that happen but its the jitters that you have got to deal with.”
“Everything was going pretty good, we even had a couple bad turnovers and a couple quick shots we shouldn’t have taken or we could have had the lead at halftime,” Indians Coach George Whittaker said.
“They came out on fire, they really wanted it, and we started out slow,” Mincher said. “We had some turnovers and we weren’t playing defense very well. we weren’t boxing out and that was giving them second chance points.”
“When they first came out they were almost stalling the game a little bit. We were playing a two zone and they were putting four guys out basically and swinging the ball around,” Tigers senior guard Hunter Snyder added.
But with the start of the second half the Tigers started to heat up, outscoring the Indians 12-6 in the third quarter, and holding an 11-point 40-29 lead. They would outscore the Indians again, 22-10 in the fourth stanza to win by the 23-point margin.
Snyder admitted that Coach Fender challenged them at the half, “He (Fender) walked into the locker and said basically “who are you guys’? That’s not how we play around here and obviously in the second half we got the jitters out and we came out and played how we know how to play.”
“We kept trying to slow them down, but we kept rushing a little bit. We would rebound the ball and then throw it out (of bounds), or someone would miss a layup. Those are things we worked on to not do,” Whittaker said.
On the night, Mincher led the Tigers with 14 points, 12 of them coming from the free throw line. “I think that’s a high for the most I’ve made (in a game). Getting to hoop, driving to the hoop and getting calls and the going to the line and hitting them.”
Mark Schuler also added another 13 points and 8 rebounds while Snyder had 11 points for the Tigers.
For Southern, they finish the season with a 12-12 record and were led by Troy Holden with 14 points in the game.