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The Suburbanite
  • Lady Spartans taking small steps toward success

  • It was another step forward for a program looking to pull itself out of nearly a decade of struggling. The Springfield Spartans are trending upward, and their 57-44 road win against North was a microcosm of where varsity girls basketball at Springfield stands 20 games into the season.

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  • It was another step forward for a program looking to pull itself out of nearly a decade of struggling. The Springfield Spartans are trending upward, and their 57-44 road win against North was a microcosm of where varsity girls basketball at Springfield stands 20 games into the season.
    With the triumph, the Spartans are 6-14 overall. While that record won’t win them any trophies, the win total represents double the number of victories the program had in each of head coach Lori Henary’s two seasons.
    “It’s progress, and we do get a lot of compliments from people that we are getting better, and it’s just keeping them motivated and knowing that (six wins) is not good enough,” Henary said.
    Like the year thus far, the win had plenty of positives to draw from, but also a few setbacks and “teachable moments” for Henary and assistant coach Jess Mazanetz to utilize in keeping their players working hard to improve.
    For the first half, the game was all Springfield as the Spartans crashed the Vikings’ senior night party by blitzing en route to a 19-2 edge at the end of the first quarter. The margin only grew from there, reaching 35-7 at halftime as North shot a paltry 2 of 27 from the field (7.4 percent) and 2 of 8 from the free-throw line. With 12 turnovers also working against them, the hosts were at a loss to counter the accurate marksmanship of their guests.
    Springfield was 14 of 21 (66.7 percent) from the field and 7 of 9 (77.8 percent) from the line in the first two quarters. Behind the strong inside play of senior forward Sam Karas, the Spartans coasted into the half with a 28-point lead.
    Karas had 14 points and four rebounds in the opening half and doubled up the Vikings (4-15) on her own. With eight points and eight rebounds from junior Ally Graham, Springfield seemed to have the game well in hand.
    “Ally Graham doesn’t normally play inside for us because she’s one of our better ball handlers, but Allie Rodenbucker was in foul trouble, and for Ally Graham, I told her dad, some of her post moves…maybe she needs to play down there a little more because they were nice,” Henary continued. “Sam, she’s our horse. She’s very disciplined and she plays hard every night. She’s definitely our leader on the floor every night.”
    As for that Springfield dominance once the second half started…not so much.
    While North never cut the deficit below 13 points, the hosts did their part to infuriate Henary as her team struggled with turnovers and defending the perimeter in the second half. The Vikings racked up 37 points in the final 16 minutes, bombing away from the outside with impunity against Springfield’s 2-3 zone defense.
    Page 2 of 2 - Junior Sabria Meadows scored 18 of her 19 points in the third and fourth quarters, including three of her team’s seven 3-pointers in the second half. Sisters Tia and Taya Balknight each had two triples of their own in the half, and with Springfield struggling against its full-court pressure, North inched back into the game even though the outcome was never really in doubt.
    The Spartans especially struggled when senior guard Jamie Alcorn was either on the bench or was denied the ball against the press.
    “Jamie has done a nice job for us this year, and at times she just took it on herself tonight to get that ball and go, but she did a good job of not making turnovers and she made some nice passes, a couple of long passes that even surprised me because they were some of her best passes all season,” Henary said.
    That didn’t prevent Henary from challenging her team several times to maintain its focus and worry about finishing well regardless of the score.
    She admitted that part of her team’s struggles could be traced to not having a wealth of experience playing with big leads.
    “That’s part of it, but there were several things we could have done better. Our defense, when they started to hit some shots from the outside, I told them we had to close out hard on shooters with our hands up, and at times we did that, at times we didn’t,” Henary said. “In the first half, we boxed out a lot better, in the second half they got a lot more offensive rebounds and we fouled more. Part of that is they have to learn how to play with a lead.”
    Karas led Springfield with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Graham also had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
    While the second half wasn’t what the third-year head coach was looking for, Henary reinforced to her team after the game that they were accomplishing significant feats for a program that has been short on such triumphs in recent years.
    “I think the best thing about those six wins is that they could have been eight or nine,” Henary said. “We were in games at Streetsboro, at home versus Streetsboro, both Crestwood games we lost by a combined four points, so I think that’s even better than the whole six wins. I told the girls that’s definitely something to be proud of. Both of my first two seasons here, we only won three.”