SPRINGFIELD TWP. Shoot the 3-pointer well and defender solidly.
It’s an approach that has become increasingly popular in basketball, where teams have embraced the idea that shooting more from beyond the arc is more efficient and effective than putting up a lot of midrange shots.
If a squad can couple solid long-range shooting with effective defense, wins typically are the result. The Springfield Spartans are hoping that going 3-and-D will help them turn around what has become a season that isn’t meeting their expectations.
"This team is built on defense and rebounding and then getting out and going hard on offense," Cole said. "We have the tools to score, but if we’re going to be at our best, defending and rebounding and then getting out on offense is the way we need to play."
The third-year head coach noted that in a recent four-game stretch, which included the team’s first win of the season, Springfield shot 40 percent from 3-point range. That percentage represented a notable uptick from the first few weeks of the season and Cole attributed it to being patient with the ball and moving it well against both man-to-man and zone defenses.
When that ball movement happens and is smart and fluid, the results are good. When it’s not … well, the results go bad in a hurry.
"When we were in a rut, we didn’t have great shot selection or ball movement," Cole said.
He pointed to the team’s four primary ball handlers as a key to having the offense flow well and noted that seniors Jeff Wilson and Trevor Price are among four players capable of running the point guard position and their ability to handle the ball under pressure is vital if the Spartans want to stay in games and give themselves a shot to win.
"It’s a good thing to know you have four different guards you can play at point guard at the varsity level and not go into a game worrying about what do against pressure," Cole said.
The front court also matters on the defensive end, but depth can be an issue there. Junior Andrew Smith (6-foot-6) and seniors Brody Carper (6-foot-4) and Tyler Dawson (6-foot-2) are the primary post players, but beyond them, there isn’t a lot of height on the roster.
"Good defense and team rebounding are really the name of the game for us," Cole said. "Andrew, Brody and Tyler who are big-bodied guys, but when a shot goes up our measuring stick is do we have all five guys backing out. If four guys do and one guy doesn’t, the ball seems to find the man of the one guy who didn’t box out."
In challenging his team to rebound well, Cole reminds them of a quote by legendary college basketball coach John Wooden, who preached being at your best when competition requires the best.
Still, despite going weeks without a win and trying to get the season on track, the veteran coach wants to see his team play within itself and not simply chase wins at any cost.
"It can be easy for teams to be win-hungry and just focused on wins, but one of our measuring sticks is how good we can be and how I can contribute to my team as a player," Cole said. "If you play a bad team, play selfishly and win the game, you’re not going to feel good after, but if we play a better team unselfishly, play well, but things don’t go our way, I’m going to feel better afterward."
For now, adhering to that mindset and executing the 3-and-D approach is what the Spartans are aiming for down the stretch. There are still a few games left before the tournament and while they can’t change what happened up to this point, they can try to keep it from continuing.
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