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Springfield boys trying to find consistency

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent

SPRINGFIELD TWP. In basketball, 50 percent is often a good rate of success.

If a team can convert half of its field goal chances, it has a great chance for victory. Making half its 3-pointers is an even better feat. However, playing just half of the games on the schedule ... that's not such a positive figure.

Springfield senior guard Dylan Hanna (3) pushes the ball up the court on a fast break in a Portage Trail Conference game against Woodridge.

Welcome to the 2020-21 season for the Springfield Spartans, who are working to settle in under first-year head coach Kyle Dack and trying to do so while unable to consistently compete due to postponements and cancellations due to the CVOID-19 pandemic.

"The biggest thing it affects is getting game experience because that's the best way to be a better basketball player or team," Dack said. "There's no real way to simulate the defensive pressure or the offenses other teams run than playing and competing."

Through the end of December, the Spartans have played six games and had six delayed or canceled due to the pandemic. Their 2-4 record has them close to their win total from last season, but they have designs on blowing past that number and elevating themselves in the Metro Athletic Conference boys basketball standings.

Another tough aspect of the ever-evolving schedule has been, Dack noted, trying to prepare for an opponent and having that opponent change at the last minute.

Springfield senior guard Joe Cole rises and fires a 3-pointer from the left wing in the third quarter of the Spartans' home contest against Woodridge.

"The other big thing is you'll be preparing for a specific team for four or five days, then the game is postponed a day or two before and you have to try to prepare for someone different," Dack said.

Despite the schedule changing on the fly, the first-year head coach hasn't seen a lot of frustration among his players about games being moved around on the calendar. The players are eager to get back out on the court and the coaching staff has seen "flashes of being a really good basketball team," making them just as eager to continue the growth process.

The eagerness to play has been fueled by close losses that motivate the Spartans to get back to competing and wash the bad taste of defeat out of their mouths.

The offense has been led by a pair of seniors, with a rising sophomore emerging as a solid third option. Seniors Dylan Hanna (17.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg) and Joel Justice (10.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg) have led the way for a team with six seniors, a group Dack praised for showing up ready to work every day, not complaining and maintaining a positive attitude.

Sophomore Trenton Stevens is contributing 10 points per game and shooting 39 percent from 3-point range to help space the floor and create driving lanes and room to operate for his teammates.

Springfield Senior forward Joel Justice handles the ball on the wing against pressure from Woodridge senior guard Joshua Decker.

Among the team's two wins, a victory over neighborhood rival Mogadore stands out as a signature triumph. The Wildcats, a Portage Trail Conference school that resided in the opposing division when Springfield was a member of the PTC, are one of the more successful small-school programs in the area and as Dack noted, the Spartans haven't defeated the Wildcats very often in recent years.

With upcoming Metro Athletic Conference games against Woodridge and Streetsboro, the victory was a nice momentum boost. The key to the win, and the key to wins the rest of the way, is defense.

"We preach defense every day and I think it shows. We're holding teams to less than what they score on average," Dack said. "Our guys are seeing what happens when you play hard on defense and execute."

With a 1-3 league record, the Spartans would love to add a second MAC win to that total. They're looking forward to every chance to play, league or otherwise.

One contest that stands out the rest of the way is a return contest against one of their biggest rivals, Coventry. The Comets claimed a 21-point win in the rivals' first game of the season, with Dack admitting that Coventry was able to bring some surprises in its game plan that the Spartans didn't expect based on their film study leading into the game. When the two sides meet again later this month, Springfield hopes to be several steps ahead of where it was in that first game and to show more flashes of the improvement they've made.