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Rally falls short for ICL titlists



Published: Thu, March 13, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



By BRIAN RICHESSON

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

CANTON -- One of Springfield High's student managers, sitting at the end of the bench, took his own timeout during the Tigers' biggest basketball game since 1969.

He leaned over to pray, and by the way things were going, it didn't hurt.

But it didn't help, either.

Divine intervention couldn't prevent Springfield from facing its first real deficit since Nov. 30.

And it couldn't prevent Bedford Chanel from ending the Tigers' season with a 57-47 victory in the Division III regional semifinals Wednesday at the Memorial Fieldhouse.

Ride to regional

Springfield (22-2) waited 33 years for this night, for this opportunity that kept eluding it for more than three decades. The Tigers won the Salem district and took their game to Canton.

"We've had some huge games in front of huge throngs of people," Springfield coach Jeff Brink said. "Kids dream of playing in these type of situations."

But Wednesday, Chanel was waiting.

"I don't want to say we were playing scared," Springfield senior Dan Schuler said. "But we just weren't in it. We didn't take care of the ball in the first half."

Chanel coach Bernie Tarr, a 1986 Girard High graduate, watched the first half play out to his liking. He wanted to put Springfield in an unfamiliar position -- playing from behind -- and that's exactly what the Firebirds did.

Neutralizing the Tigers

With Schuler and David Rispinto, the Tigers' top two scorers, shut out and senior Jeff Mershimer injuring his left knee, Chanel (21-3) opened a 28-15 halftime lead.

"That community was not going to allow those guys to lay down," Tarr said. "I told our guys that they [the Tigers] were going to make a run and this roof was going to explode. We had to persevere."

The run came, with Schuler finally finding his stride.

"Coach talked to me at halftime," Schuler said. "I knew I had to get the ball in the paint and go to them."

Brink said, "Danny Schuler took over the game. You saw why he was the player of the year in Northeast Ohio. He did whatever he wanted in the post."

After Chanel scored the first basket of the second half, Springfield reeled off 10 straight points -- eight by Schuler -- and trailed 30-25 with 3 minutes, 35 seconds remaining in the third.

Suddenly, the Tigers' fans were roaring, the bench was soaring and Chanel was trying to find a way to make it all subside.

"Our kids showed a lot of courage, a lot of pride in the second half," Brink said.

Coming up short

Schuler scored all 14 of his points in the second half as he tried to bring the Tigers back. They cut their deficit to four points several times in the fourth quarter, only to come up short.

"It was definitely tough," Schuler said of playing from behind. "Against East Liverpool [that Nov. 30 game], it was the same situation. We fought back and would get [the deficit] down and they would put it right back up."

Chanel sealed the victory at the free throw line in the fourth quarter. Junior Austin Weatherington, who scored 20 points, was 9-of-9 at the line in the fourth and 12-of-13 for the game.

"I've seen him finish teams off," Tarr said.

Senior Jonathan Vivo and senior Henrik Thomsen each scored nine points for the Tigers, who were 4-of-24 (17 percent) from 3-point range.

"We shouldn't be ashamed after tonight," Schuler said. "We came up shorter than we wanted to, but we've had great careers and we've made a lot of great memories."

richesson@vindy.com




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