NORTH LIMA — There are no easy games or days off for the girls basketball teams that make up Tier One of the Inter Tri-County League.
In fact, you can’t even afford to take a quarter off in some of these tightly-contested league games.
The Springfield Tigers found that out Monday night at South Range as they nearly blew a 12-point fourth quarter lead before hanging on to a 62-55 win.
“It’s never easy,” said a relieved Springfield coach Sandi Kohler. “This new league is brutal. Every night you have to play at your best and then some.”
The Tigers (9-2, 5-1) remained atop the Tier One standings along with United after holding off a determined Raider bid for an upset.
Springfield will host United Thursday night with first place on the line.
The Raiders stormed back from a 48-36 deficit to tie Springfield at 55-55 on a basket by Gabi Naples with 1:20 left in the contest.
South Range then forced a Springfield turnover and had the ball after a timeout with 1:15 remaining.
Naples missed a basket and Springfield’s Kallie Rogers was fouled on the rebound. Rogers made one free toss for a 56-55 lead.
The Tigers forced a turnover on South Range’s next trip down the floor and Brooke Schrieber broke free on an inbounds play and scored on a layup to give Springfield a 58-55 lead with just 30 seconds remaining.
Seconds later, South Range missed on a 3-point attempt and Springfield put the game away by making four free throws in the final 12.6 seconds.
“This was a big win for us,” said Rogers who scored a team-high 18 points in the game. “They are a bitter rival for us so it was big deal for us to come in here and get a win.
“We just slacked off a little bit in the last quarter because we were tired but when it got to crunch time we kicked it in and got the ‘W.’”
Kohler said she was pleased at how the team responded to South Range’s challenge down the stretch.
“What we told them with 1:06 left was that you had to play hard,” Kohler said. “You can’t play out there afraid to lose, you have to play to win and they gathered themselves and made plays.
“We had to get a stop and we had to get the ball back and score.”
South Range started the fourth quarter rally behind the strong play of Ellie Stoffer, who scored seven straight points early in the period to cut Springfield’s lead from 48-38 to 48-45.
Stoffer scored 11 of her game-high 23 points in the final eight minutes to lead the charge.
“We were down 12 points heading into that fourth quarter and we didn’t quit,” said South Range coach Wayne Johnson. “We kept getting after them but we just couldn’t make some plays down the stretch.
“We ran a play where we thought we had an advantage with the score tied. We got a point-blank shot but we just couldn’t make it.”
Springfield set the tone early in the contest by making its first nine shots and opened up a 21-12 first quarter lead.
The Tigers shot over 70 percent from the field in the first half and got plenty of offense from not only Rogers but Adria Lyons (17 points) and Emily Brinsey (10 points).
Gabi Naples scored 16 points for Springfield.