Wildcats play Wayne closer but lose fifth-straight game to league rival.
SPRINGFIELD — Springfield’s frustration against Wayne continued Friday night, but in a different way. The Wildcats lost 64-61 in front of a full gym, their fifth-straight defeat at the hands of to the Warriors. But unlike the last three regular season games, Springfield was in it to the buzzer.
Entering Friday’s game, the Warriors beat Springfield by an average of 27.6 points per game in their last three conference meetings, including an 85-50 win at Wayne on Jan. 8. But the Wildcats (13-5, 4-4 GWOC Central) played tougher in Friday’s rematch against the state’s top ranked Division I team and led from the end of the first quarter until the end of the third.
Wayne, who remains undefeated, remain poised down the stretch and pulled back ahead early in the fourth after timely baskets from Trey Landers and L’Christian Smith. The Warriors (19-0, 8-0) nursed a three-point lead through the final minute in which Springfield missed three potentially game-tying shots, including a half-court heave at the buzzer.
Fouls were again a deciding factor in a Springfield loss. The Wildcats sent Wayne to the free-throw line 23 times, and Wayne took advantage by making all but four attempts. Springfield made 14 of 18 attempts. The five-point differential at the line hurt the Wildcats in a three-point loss.
Rodrick Caldwell, who made 10 of 11 foul shot attempts in the game, made two with three seconds left to help the Warriors secure the win. He also hit three free throws at the end of the third quarter, which broke a tie and gave Wayne a 45-42 lead.
“We’ve got to clean that up,” Springfield head coach Isiah Carson said. “A couple of times there we fouled Rodrick Caldwell away from the bucket. You can’t put that guy on the free-throw line for free buckets. There was about eight points total in the second half he got from us just fouling him away from the bucket. That’s what we can’t do.”
There were plenty of things for the Wildcats to be happy about. Springfield outrebounded Wayne unofficially 26-17 and shot nearly the same from the field; the Warriors made 21-of-38 shot attempts and the Wildcats made 21-of-43. Springfield also turned the ball over nine times compared to 13 times by Wayne.
“Intensity-wise, we came out ready to play,” Carson said. “We gave ourselves a chance… Talent-wise, we can match up with anybody just about. I don’t know about our depth overall, but we’re pretty good if we come out with a sense of urgency. I’m confident against anybody we play.”
In the opening minutes of the game, it looked like Wayne was primed for another large win. The Warriors went on a 12-2 run and grabbed a six-point lead. But Springfield stopped Wayne’s momentum fast after a timeout. Danny Davis hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Wildcats a 20-17 lead at the end of the first. Springfield stretched its lead to 33-24 by halftime with balanced scoring in the second quarter.
The Wildcats led by as many as 10 in the third before Wayne came back. Springfield center Darius Harper was called for a technical foul with about six minutes left and sat for most of the rest of the quarter. Trey Landers took advantage of his absence and scored eight points in the paint during a three-minute stretch in which the Warriors outscored Springfield 13-2.
After Caldwell’s free throws at the end of the third gave Wayne a lead, L’Christian Smith scored the first five points of the fourth to stretch the advantage to 50-42. Springfield pulled closer in the final minutes of the fourth after a few baskets from Michael McKay and Davis. Davis hit a shot with 54 seconds left which cut Wayne’s lead to 60-57.
Springfield missed three potential game-tying shots in the final minute. The Wildcats cut the lead to 62-61 after Davis made two free throws with about five seconds left. Caldwell was fouled on Wayne’s inbounds pass and made two foul shots with three seconds left to make the final score.
“That third quarter was a killer for us,” Carson said. “They did a good job in the third. We knew they would make a run at some point of course, and we made a run back. But they just came out with it at the end.”
The game’s three-point deficit was a big change from the 35-point margin the Wildcats lost to Wayne by a month ago. Carson said the team’s defense was much better on Friday.
They’ll try to keep their defense up through the remainder of regular season and in the tournament, which starts in two weeks. The tournament draw for all southwest Ohio teams is Sunday. Carson says he expects Springfield will earn the second or third seed in the Dayton Division I sectional.
The Wildcats advanced to the regional finals last year where they played Wayne. They played the Warriors much closer than either regular season loss but ultimately fell 67-60. They Wildcats haven’t beaten the Warriors since the 2013-14 season when they swept them in league play. They hope to learn lessons from Friday’s close loss if they face the Warriors in the postseason like last year.
“We feel pretty good about (where we’re at),” Carson said. “Just cleaning up little silly things, and I think we push forward. We’ve had a chance to win a lot of these ballgames (we lost), we’ve just to close them out.”
Caldwell led Wayne with 20 points. Landers scored 17 for the Warriors and Parker added 12. Davis led the Wildcats with 16 points, while McKay scored 14.
Springfield returns to the court on Tuesday at home against Beavercreek. Wayne hosts Greenville (11-6) on Saturday.