SPRINGFIELD TWP. Murphy’s Law came to define the first few weeks of the boys basketball season for the Springfield Spartans.
In getting off to a winless start that extended all the way into mid-January, the Spartans dealt with a lot of difficulties, including injuries and players who had to miss time for other issues off the court. Third-year head coach Tim Cole and his team saw a lot of hardships come their way prior to their first win, a 41-40 triumph over Kent Roosevelt in the second week of January, and Cole admitted that the long losing streak to start the season wore on the team.
"It was tremendous like getting a thousand pound weight lifted off us," Cole said. "There was genuine excitement for our guys after that one. We had a bad start to season … the first five games anything that could go wrong did go wrong and it went wrong on the court."
Cole noted that over the school’s holiday break, the level of play in practices and games began to improve. As practices got better, the results on the court followed and on the road against Roosevelt, Springfield ground out a win playing against a determined team that didn’t want to have the Spartans secure their first win of the season on their home court.
In the wake of that win, Springfield was more competitive in losses to teams with winning records, including Northwest, Coventry and Streetsboro. Although those contests ended in losses, according to Cole, each one represented the best basketball the Spartans had played to that point.
The results aren’t what the team was hoping for, but the goal now is staying upbeat and focused.
"Imagine something that could go wrong and it did. (Starting center) Andrew Smith was out for three games and we had some other guys who missed a quarter or a half due to an injury or something else, so we weren’t at full strength or executing well," Cole said. "Not executing well and not being at full strength, it’s tough to win games."
The Streetsboro game was arguably the most frustrating one of the season to date. It was a low-scoring game throughout and after falling behind early and heading to the locker room trailing, Springfield slowly scrapped its way back into the game by playing good defense and hitting just enough shots to close the gap.
Late in the fourth quarter, a series of big defensive stops and key rebounds helped the Spartans claim a 37-34 lead that looked like it would turn into their first Portage Trail Conference win of the season. However, the Rockets were able to gain possession with just under a minute left in the fourth quarter and after a missed shot, grabbed the offensive rebound and took a timeout to set up a play.
After the timeout, a long 3-pointer from the right wing tied the game and Springfield was unable to respond with a basket of its own to retake the lead. A timeout didn’t yield a good shot, so Cole called a second timeout with one second remaining, but again his team couldn’t get a clean look at the basket.
In overtime, Streetsboro quickly pushed ahead and Springfield couldn’t match their surge, falling by six despite leading much of the fourth quarter.
"It’s tough. I don’t think we could have played them any better. We had the game in hand, spent all of the timeout not letting Braden Tucker) catch it and to run him off the (3-point) line, but he caught the ball and hit a three over one of our best defenders," Cole said.
It was a deflating defeat at home, but in a season when they’ve been hit with one stiff punch after another, the Spartans have learned a lot about how to respond to setbacks. In the last few weeks of the campaign, they’ll have the chance to show what they’ve learned.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
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