By CHUCK HOUSTEAU
BERLIN CENTER -- The Springfield High basketball team could have easily rested on its laurels after wrapping up the Inter-County League title last week.
Springfield owned a three-game lead with just two league contests to play, so overlooking league foes Western Reserve and South Range with a big game looming against Poland in the season finale concerned Tigers coach Jeff Brink.
But there was no reason for Brink to worry as his team dusted off a sluggish 13-10 first-quarter lead and raced away for an easy 62-37 win at Western Reserve.
"We made some small goals after we wrapped up the [ICL] title to keep the team motivated," Brink said. "We wanted to go undefeated in the league and then we want to win against our league rival South Range on Friday.
"I wasn't sure how we would come out tonight because Western Reserve is better than its record, but after the first quarter we played some good basketball," Brink said.
The Tigers (17-1, 13-0) put together solid back-to-back efforts in the second and third quarters to outscore the Blue Devils 31-8.
Senior Henrik Thomsen led the scoring parade with 13 points as 12 Tigers broke into the scoring column.
Defensively, Springfield used a match-up zone defense that thoroughly confused the Blue Devils (8-11, 7-5) and forced Reserve into 26 turnovers, including 18 in the first half.
"We never got in sync against their match-up zone," Western Reserve coach Steve Miller said. "We had turnover after turnover and you just can't do that against a team like Springfield.
"You almost have to play a perfect game just to stay close and we never really gave ourselves a chance," Miller said.
Reserve's problems were also on the defensive side of the game.
Too many weapons
The Tigers had too many offensive weapons to contain and they were able to exploit the Devils' defense in many ways.
"They're so talented that you can't take everything away," Miller said of the Springfield players. "We tried to keep the ball out of their good shooters hands but they can hurt you so many other ways."
Springfield's height advantage hurt Reserve as the Tigers' front line of Thomsen (6-foot, 8-inches), Schuler (6-5) and Mershimer (6-6) easily controlled the boards.
The Tigers out-rebounded the Blue Devils 33-17 and were able to get many second and third chances at scoring on the offensive end.
"We're difficult to match up with," Brink said. "We can go nine [players] deep and our big guys can also shoot from the outside."
Schuler helped Springfield with nine points and nine rebounds while David Rispinto chipped in with 11 points.
Jeremy Shevel led the Devils in scoring with 11 points.