By Jim Flick
NORTH LIMA — In a battle of backyard rivals that wasn’t settled until the final minute, the South Range High boys basketball team defeated Springfield 55-52 Tuesday night.
The game was tied 50-50 with 34.6 seconds remaining. But three Raiders players sank five foul shots in the final seconds to give South Range (6-4) the victory.
“Games with Springfield are always fierce because of our backyard rivalry,” said South Range coach David Purins.
“Our composure at the end of the fourth quarter” was the key to his team’s win, Purins added.
“I’m proud of our composure,” he said. “Our kids were strong with the free throws down the stretch.”
The game-clinching march to the free-throw line began after South Range’s Andrew Lacefield was fouled on an inbounds play.
He stepped to the free-throw line and calmly sank two foul shots.
Lacefield was the game’s leading scorer with 19 points.
Springfield (3-4) then missed a shot that would have tied the game. After South Range grabbed the rebound, the Raiders’ Jordan Baker was fouled. Baker connected on two free throws to give South Range a 54-50 advantage.
After Springfield scored an uncontested layup to make the score 54-52 with six second remaining, South Range’s Kyle Seaver was fouled. He sank a free throw for the final point of the game.
Springfield launched a long, wild shot as the clock expired.
“What I like about our team is that we’re so balanced,” Purins said. “On different nights, different kids step up for us.”
Tuesday night, it was Lacefield who stepped up, sinking eight field goals, including a 3-pointer. While he didn’t come into the game as the Raiders’ leading scorer, Purins said Lacefield is “a true leader for us on the floor. His character is tremendous.”
Purins also praised Nathan Ruiz, a 6-foot-7 junior who hauled down 10 rebounds for the Raiders while scoring eight points.
“Tonight was his best game of the season,” the coach said. “He was strong on defense, grabbing rebounds and forcing them to adjust their shots.”
South Range “played a great game tonight,” said Springfield coach Eric Fender. “I don’t think we adjusted all that well tonight. We made some plays at the end that got us back into the game.
“But I credit South Range,” Fender added. “They came prepared and outplayed us at the end of the game.”
South Range got off to a fast start, building a 9-0 lead to start the game. But when Tanner Avnet hit a long jumper to put Springfield’s first points on the board, he started a rally that didn’t end until the Tigers tied the score 13-13 early in the second quarter.
But South Range launched its own rally, scoring seven unanswered points to put the Raiders in front 20-13 after Baker netted two free throws. Baker scored nine points, including seven free throws.
South Range built a 28-19 lead by halftime, but Springfield outscored the Raiders 33-27 in the second half to set up the last minute theatrics.
Kyle Seavers was the only other Raider to score in double figures for South Range, tallying 11 points.
Jim Zubick lead Springfield in scoring with 15 points, while Brad Ferrarro added 11 points.