SPRINGFIELD — Wayne and Springfield clashed Friday night in front of a sold out energetic gym in a battle for a spot atop the GWOC National East Division and bragging rights between rivals.
“When we play Springfield it’s a rivalry, but it’s a brotherhood,” said Wayne coach Nathan Martindale.
Wayne opened up the game with a Rashad McKee three-pointer and opened an early 5-2 lead over Springfield but the Wildcats went on an 8-0 run and never looked back on the way to a comfortable 72-58 win over the Warriors.
“I thought Springfield played really well. They did exactly what I expected them to do,” Martindale said. “We watched them in person, scouted them, watched them on film and they’re extremely athletic, they play extremely hard, play well on defense. I give great credit to coach Zay. He does a great job with his kids.”
In the first quarter, Wayne was able to hold its own, holding Springfield to 12 points and finishing off the quarter with some points of its own to only trail 12-10.
In the second quarter, Springfield started to exploit some cracks in Wayne’s zone defense and began to pull away. The Wildcats ended the half with a 6-0 run that left the Warriors trailing 29-21 at the half.
Springfield came out in the second half and scored quickly but Wayne was able to counter. Though the Wildcats were in control of the game from early on, Wayne did not fade. Both teams traded runs in the quarter, but the Warriors could not get the deficit to less than the nine points.
“They took advantage of some things we need to get better at,” Martindale said. “We did a bad job of help defense down the stretch, letting guys get layup, layup, layup, dunk. I mean, if you can’t get a stop, you can’t win.”
Wayne started the 4th quarter down 46-37, just a 9-point margin but the way the Wildcats were executing it felt like double that. Springfield senior guard ReHeim Moss took control in the 4th quarter; he scored 10 of his 19 points in the quarter and erased some crucial opportunities for Wayne with blocks at the rim.
Throughout the game, Springfield pressed the ball in a variety of ways as Wayne brought the ball up court. At times the Wildcats used a full-court press, at others they started a press at midcourt. Throughout the second half, Springfield doubled the ball but Wayne could not find the open man, which resulted in turnovers and unforced errors at times.
Rashad McKee and Tallice Landers each hit three shots from outside the arc and Ronnie Hampton earned hard-earned points in the lane, but the Springfield defense was in full effect in the paint.
Wayne had opportunities blocked on layups it’s used to completing. Even in transition, the Wildcats were relentless; Wayne had numerous steals and breakaway chances thwarted by Wildcat defenders hustling down court to block the layup attempt.
Wayne’s roster is short on significant varsity experience and the fact that there was an underwhelming Wayne presence in the stands can make a difficult environment. On defense, Wayne had a few breakdowns that led to easy layups and dunks for Springfield. When Wayne was on offense, the persistent Wildcat press and energy of the Springfield crowd made for a teaching moment. The Wayne coaching staff hopes these lessons will play out in big wins in March.
“Our goal is to play a really tough schedule and to allow us to be prepared to go for March, because to win our sectional, which is a long way away, we have to play and beat some of these teams that we’ve already played and we have to get better,” Martindale added.
Wayne travels to St. Vincent-St. Mary’s on Sunday, January 13 and then the following Sunday, plays Garfield Heights in the Flyin’ to the Hoop tournament at Fairmont High School.
Springfield will play Prolific Prep Saturday, Jan. 19 at Flyin’ to the Hoop.
WAY 10 21 37 58– 58
SPRF 12 29 46 72– 72
Wayne: Rashad McKee 22, Tallice Landers 13, Brian Hill 2, Malcolm Curry 2, Jordan Long 2, Ronnie Hampton 14, Bobby Cole 3. Totals: 20-11-58.
Springfield: Larry Stephens 18, Jordan Howard 3, Jeff Tolliver 4, David Sanford 17, RaHeim Moss 19, Jalan Minney 11. Totals: 29-10-72.
Three-point goals: Wayne 7 (McKee 3, Landers 3, Cole); Springfield 4 (Stephens 3, Sanford).
Records: Wayne 6-6 (4-2), Springfield 8-3 (7-0).
JV score: Wayne 32, Springfield 40.