By Joe Catullo Jr.
Slipping, sliding and colliding with East Palestine on Friday night, Springfield took advantage over its rival with 27 takeaways, one of three main ingredients to the Tigers’ 67-53 victory.
The other two were that the Tigers (2-0, 1-0) kept Austen Reiser under control and maintained their tempo. Also, the Bulldogs (0-3, 0-1) were without point guard Nathanial Keylor.
“We controlled the tempo the entire time, and that was really it,” Springfield’s Eoghan Bees said. “We also controlled Austen Reiser, who’s one of the best players in this league, if not the best, and that’s what it came down to.”
Reiser finished with a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds and Bees scored 22 points (five 3-pointers) and had seven assists and five rebounds. He said it was all on his teammates.
“The points all came from open looks that I got from them penetrating the ball,” Bees said. “The rebounds were all because our other guys got the boxes, and I was just able to get in there and pick them up. And the assists, I don’t get those unless my guys are knocking them down.”
Springfield coach Eric Fender is not surprised by Bees’ points and said the assists meant more.
“He started for us last year in our long journey to the regionals,” Fender said. “He’s a guy we rely on. He’s a guy who’s going to have to score a lot for us in order to keep us in the games, but he’s also got to be able to distribute the basketball. We don’t want it to be a one-man show.”
Although the Bulldogs committed 27 turnovers, the Tigers missed 37 shots. Also, each team collected 29 rebounds, but Springfield had 17 offensive boards.
“Our team had a lot of open shots,” the Bulldogs; Alex Wharry said. “It’s just hard to knock all of them down. If you watch the tape and look at all of the stats, we had a lot of missed shots tonight that once we get the groove of things, those shots will be knocked down.”
East Palestine coach Tom Bingham said he saw many positive aspects with his young team.
“As far as getting after it and playing hard, I thought it was a closer game than it was,” he said. “The final score I don’t think is an indicator of how close it was. You can ask them, but I don’t think they were comfortable until the last three or four minutes.”
The Bulldogs trailed the entire game but mini-runs kept it close, including a 6-0 run to begin the third quarter. They trailed by less than 10 points at one point in the second half.
“It’s just controlling the tempo,” Fender said. “We understand the games are going to go on runs. We just don’t want it to be 10- to 12-point runs. We want it to be two- to four-point runs, and I think we did that pretty well tonight.”