Four players scored in double figures on Friday to help lift the Wildcats over Miamisburg.
MIAMISBURG — Springfield is ready for a banner year and flexed its muscles against a GWOC opponent on Friday. The Wildcats beat Miamisburg 70-55 to earn their first win of the season.
Springfield started the season last Saturday against Pickerington Central in a showcase in Whitehall. Instead of the Wildcats showcasing their talents, they showed they need to get into shape in a 15-point loss.
“That showed us that we had to defend a lot better,” sophomore guard Antwuan Johnson said of the season-opening loss. “We had one player go for 31 against us, one go for 24 and we let a freshmen go for 13. We had to come back and play better defense (against Miamisburg), so we practiced hard this week.”
Friday was the first step toward playing top-tier Division I basketball according to head coach Isiah Carson. The Wildcats took an 11-point lead by the end of the first quarter and led by a double-digit margin for the rest of the game.
Springfield put the game away in the first four minutes of the third quarter when they outscored the Vikings 16-4. But Miamisburg outscored the Wildcats 34-21 in the game’s last 12 minutes, which Carson said proves plenty of work remains.
“We want to sustain that,” Carson said of Springfield’s play in the third quarter. “That’s what good teams do, they sustain that over a long period of a game. We weren’t able to sustain that tonight. We showed patches of it, so we’ve got to sustain that. It’s only game two, but we’ve got to get better.”
The Wildcats return a solid core from last year’s 20-8 regional runner-up team. The team’s two best players are well known to area fans. Danny Davis, a junior guard, led Springfield with nearly 19 points a game last year while senior center Darius Harper (a Miami signee) averaged 10 points and eight rebounds.
But Carson’s confident the Wildcats’ depth extends far beyond those two. Also back are guards Michael McKay as well as forwards Leonard Taylor and Jeremiah Ward. Johnson, who saw limited varsity time off the bench during last year, is also expected to be a key player this year.
Springfield’s depth helped them beat Miamisburg. Harper was contained in the post; he scored four points on Friday in comparison to scoring 18 against Pickerington Central last week. But Jeremiah Ward stepped up in his absence. Ward scored 16 points (11 in the second half) and brought down seven rebounds.
Johnson scored 15 points on Friday, including 10 in the first quarter to help Springfield build a 15-4 lead. McKay added 10 points, all of which came in the second half.
“Those guys stepped up and played okay tonight,” Carson said. “Antwuan played really strong tonight. That’s a strong guard right there that likes to attack the rim. I’m really happy with the way he played. Ward had a great second half. He’s going to give the energy and effort every night. He just has to have the confidence. He’s capable of doing a lot of things.”
Ward’s 16 points was a career high. The senior sat out the first half of last season after transferring from Shawnee. Ward helped add depth off of Springfield’s bench during the second half of last season, but he says he’s improved and wants to be consistent contributor this year.
“I feel like last year I wouldn’t have done half the stuff I did tonight,” Ward said. “I’ve been working at it all summer long and haven’t taken any days off. I’ve been giving it to my team and working hard every day to give them the best I can give them.”
Though the depth helped, Davis was still Springfield’s leader against Miamisburg. He scored a 17 points and was the only player for either team that scored in all four quarters.
“Danny’s going to get his,” Miamisburg head coach Tim Fries said of Davis. “The guy’s a phenomenal scorer.”
Kort Justice, who moved from Vandalia Butler, led Miamisburg with 18 points. Max Dungan added 11 for the Vikings (1-2).
Fries was proud of how his team battled back in the second half and was particularly pleased with post players Ryan Zech and Duncan Hall.
“It wasn’t going well for us,” Fries said. “This is a young team and an inexperienced team. They got after it, and that’s all we asked. If you can get after it, some good things will happen. I think we started to attack the basket a little more and get to the free-throw line. That allowed us to creep back into it.
Springfield plays again next Friday at home against Centerville to open GWOC Central Division play. Miamisburg plays next on Tuesday at home against Bellbrook.
Johnson said Springfield is going to practice hard at defense again this week to not let up in a game like they did in the final minutes against Miamisburg.
“We kind of let it up in the second half,” Johnson said. “They doubled their score in the second half. We’ve got to pick up the defense because we can’t come in with the same mindset next week against Centerville.”
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