Tigers nearly get the upset

Springfield came up short against Richmond Heights on Friday. (Photo by Gary Leininger)

CANTON — Springfield and Richmond Heights’ varsity boys basketball teams put on a show befitting of their tremendous seasons in a wild Div. IV regional final on Friday at the Canton Fieldhouse.

In a tension-filled fourth quarter that had fans from both schools on the edges of their seats, Richmond Heights escaped a furious Tiger comeback to clip Springfield 46-43 and advance to next week’s state tournament in Columbus.

“It was a fantastic (game),” said Springfield head coach Steve French.

“We talked about believing that we belonged in this game and I think we definitely did that,” added French.

The issue wasn’t decided until the final buzzer sounded. Springfield, which trailed 36-30 entering the fourth quarter, staged a tremendous final-quarter comeback in which the Tigers pulled within 46-43 of the

Spartans and had possession of the ball following a timeout with six seconds left. The Tigers inbounded the ball and a three-point shot failed to find the mark, but with two seconds showing, Tiger 6-3 center Shane Eynon alertly collared the basketball and launched it back out to guard Beau Brungard standing outside the three-point line on the right side. Brungard launched a high-arching three-point attempt that looked spot on, but the shot hit the front of the rim and bounced away at the buzzer and Richmond Heights escaped with the win.

“That’s what high school basketball is all about,” said Richmond Heights head coach Quentin Rogers of the highly-competitive contest.

“They (the Tigers) are a well-coached team, they’ve very disciplined.”

The Spartans (21-6) advance to Columbus and will play Convoy Crestview in a D4 state semifinal Friday at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center.

“This is the first time the school has ever made it to state,” said Rogers. “It’s good for the community. With our schedule this year we’ve seen so much and I’m glad that toughened us up and made us prepared for these type of situations.”

Springfield bows out with a 21-6 mark and this year’s team advanced farther than any Tiger squad since the 1968-69 season. The Tigers played a tremendous game and took a highly-favored opponent to the brink.

“Sometimes you’re not sure your guys are going to have that confidence, but we did,” said French. “We fought the whole game. We were able to put pressure on them a little bit, create some turnovers and get back in it and just missed a couple shots down the stretch. If they fall, it’s a different story.”

Junior Drew Clark led the Tigers with a game-high 18 points, including five of the Tigers’ six three-pointers on the night, while Shane Eynon, the lone senior on the team, added 14 points and got the fans pumped up on several occasions with his all-out energy.

“Shane (Eynon) had a terrific career, we challenged him to be a leader for us and he did that,” said French. “He did everything we’ve asked and we’re going to miss him.”

Leading the Spartans, who had eight three-pointers in the game, was Gbolahan Adio with 12 points, including a trio of treys, while Curtis Houston II had nine points and Jamarr Talbert Jr. had eight points, including a pair of three-pointers.

Springfield actually out-rebounded the taller Spartans 30-28 but Richmond Heights had six blocks in the game, including two key ones in the closing minutes. Eynon led the Tigers with nine rebounds, while

Clark added seven caroms and a blocked shot and Evan Ohlin also had seven rebounds. Anthony Maxie had nine rebounds to lead Richmond Heights, including four blocks.

“We’ve got players on this team that didn’t want it to be their last game, and if you get to this point, you want to take it to the next step and you know it’s going to be a dogfight,” said Rogers.

Springfield took a 3-0 lead to open the game on a trey by the Tigers’ Clark at the 5:45 mark of the first period. But the Spartans caught and passed the Tigers when Talbert Jr. buried a three-pointer at the 5:31 mark as Richmond Heights took a 6-3 advantage. Undaunted by the Spartans quickness and length inside, Springfield outscored Richmond Heights 6-2 the remainder of the frame and took a 9-8 lead after one when Tiger Evan Ohlin hit two free throws with 1.8 seconds left on the clock.

Springfield took its biggest lead of the first half when Clark nailed a three-pointer to open the second quarter and the Tigers led 12-8.

But the Spartans went on a 12-2 run in a span of 2:30 to lead 20-14 at the 5:10 mark. Springfield cut it to a five-point deficit at halftime as Ohlin hit a fielder with 24 seconds left before the break, as the Tigers trailed 24-19.

After Richmond Heights took its largest lead of the game at nine points (32-23) with 3:38 left in the third quarter, Springfield began to control the tempo, making it a half court game while slowing gaining momentum. The Tigers went on to outscore the Spartans 7-4 the remainder of the period to trail 36-30 after three and set up a wild fourth quarter.

“We definitely tried to change things up (on defense) and every time we did they (the Spartans) turned it over,” said French of his team’s comeback.

French praised Springfield’s outstanding following which made the hour-long trip to Canton to show their tremendous support.

“Springfield is a tremendous community and you saw the support here tonight,” he praised. “These guys have a great following. We sold more tickets for tonight’s game than we did for Tuesday’s game and we had a lot of people here Tuesday.”

French said things look very promising for next season with four starters returning from its regional final team.

“Now (the returning four starters and backups) see what it takes in terms of preparation and what you need to do in the summer and what we have to do to get back (here),” he said. “It was a big step for us this season.”

NOTES

Springfield was making its fifth appearance in the regional in school history and first since the 2012 campaign. The Tigers advanced to a regional title game for the first time since the 1968-69 season.

Springfield had advanced to Friday night’s regional final after a 62-50 win over South Central Tuesday. Richmond Heights had advanced with a 66-34 win over Bristol.

RICHMOND HEIGHTS 08-16-12-10-46

SPRINGFIELD LOCAL: 09-10-11-13-43

RICHMOND HEIGHTS SCORING: Curtis Houston II 2-4-9, Jevontae Jones 3-0-6, Gbolahan Adio 3-3-12, Anthony Maxie Jr. 2-0-4, Jamarr Talbert Jr. 3-0-8, BJ Carter 2-0-4, Isaiah Martin 1-0-3. TEAM TOTALS: 16 7-8-46.

SPRINGFIELD LOCAL SCORING: Evan Ohlin 1-2-4, Drew Clark 6-1-18, Clay Medvec 0-0-0, Shane Eynon 4-6-14, Beau Brungard 2-0-5, Adam Wharry 1-0-2, Lucas Yemma 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 14 9-16 43

Three-point goals — Richmond Heights — 7 (Gbolahan Adio 3, Jamarr Talbert 2, Curtis Houston II 1 Isaiah Martin 1), Springfield Local 6 (Drew Clark 5, Beau Brungard 1)

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