Been there, done that: Springfield clinches ICL
The Tigers knew exactly how to handle themselves after a fourth-straight league title.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NEW MIDDLETOWN -- A team with unfinished business was all business after winning its fourth-straight league title.
There were no jumps for joy, no long-lasting hugs, no victory laps.
All the Springfield High basketball team did was slap hands and greet McDonald at center court.
Yet another Inter-County League opponent fell by the wayside with the Tigers' 56-33 victory on their home floor Friday.
Of course, members of the Springfield senior class were all smiles. In their four years of varsity basketball, they have been treated with four ICL titles.
"Some players never get a chance to win a championship in their life," Springfield senior Dan Schuler said. "We have four straight at the high school level, and it's unbelievable."
Springfield coach Jeff Brink added, "It's basically a career title. They've come in our gym and have always gone out as a champion. It's a tremendous accomplishment for our senior class."
At Springfield (16-1, 12-0), winning has become commonplace. Sometimes, it's even taken for granted. But what it has done is raise the level of expectations within the program.
"We expect to win the ICL every year," said Springfield senior David Rispinto, who scored a game-high 20 points against McDonald, including four 3-pointers.
With all of the talent that has been assembled in the past four years, Springfield has yet to win a district title. Now you know why an ICL title is nice, but not totally satisfying.
"Every year something happened, something went wrong," said Schuler, whose team lost in last season's district tournament to South Range at the buzzer. "That's why a certain amount of this [ICL success], we expect. Winning tonight was a great feeling, but we have a long road ahead of us."
With Rispinto's scoring and Schuler leading Springfield's big bodies, including Henrik Thomsen (6-8), Jeff Mershimer (6-6), Aaron Wood (6-4) and Rick Weimer (6-3) underneath, the state-ranked Tigers controlled McDonald from start to finish.
"They bring two or three guys off the bench, and they're just as rough inside," McDonald coach Ed Dolsak said. "I'm not sure any other team in the area has that kind of bench strength."
The 6-5 Schuler scored only eight points, but he grabbed 13 rebounds for the Tigers.
"David Rispinto and Dan Schuler have been dominating other players in our league," Brink said. "They might not have better stats, but the only stat that matters is the victory."
McDonald (11-6, 8-4) was led by seniors Kevin Stonestreet and Josh Camuso and junior Ken McKay with eight points each. The Blue Devils struggled to find open shots against Springfield's hounding defense.
"We still probably played the best overall game this season," Dolsak said. "The kids show a lot of effort, and they play with a lot of passion and internal pride."
Springfield, which will play in the Division III tournament in Salem, finishes its regular season with ICL games against Western Reserve and South Range before capping it Feb. 21 at undefeated and state-ranked Poland.
"We still have some unfinished business," Rispinto said. "We want to sweep the ICL this year. We have a lot of basketball to play."