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Springfield repeats as district champs

ORWELL — The Springfield Tigers are district champs once again.

The Tigers defeated the Cornerstone Christian Academy Patriots 43-21 in their OHSAA district final game on Saturday. With the victory, Springfield claimed the Division IV district crown for the second straight season.

The Tigers were in control from the very start but Cornerstone started the game with intensity which led to early Springfield mistakes and Cornerstone led the game in the first few minutes. But, the Tigers adjusted to the aggressive defense of Cornerstone and quickly found their groove, ending the first quarter with an 11-8 lead.

“We’ve been working on pressure for two weeks,” Springfield head coach John Matisi said. “We knew this was coming from them, they were the top seed in that half (of the bracket), so we knew this was the kind of game we’d have to win. We knew we’d have to handle pressure, we knew we’d have to break a press and handle different traps and different zones, and we did it. We came out, we executed perfectly, we did everything we wanted to do.”

The Tigers expanded their lead in the second quarter thanks to the play of sophomore center Jameka Brungard, who led the team with 14 points. Brungard out rebounded everyone else on the floor and her offensive rebounding led to second chance scoring opportunities for Springfield.

“Just crash the boards,” Brungard said. “I was just trying to get as many offensive and defensive rebounds as I could.”

The Patriots defense battled to keep Brungard out of low-post situations, but try as they might, Cornerstone could not keep rebounds out of Brungard’s hands.

“I thought we just lost her,” Patriots head coach Lisa Stopp said. “The Tigers would drive, and maybe would miss, but I thought she had a lot of putbacks, not just post moves. We were fronting her, so I thought a lot of her scoring came off offensive boards.”

Springfield put its foot on the gas as it started the second half leading 20-10. The Tigers continued their momentum with offensive and defensive efficiency. Springfield could sense the desperation of the Patriots and they capitalized, scoring 10 third quarter points while holding Cornerstone to four.

“Cornerstone was down, so they had to come out and pressure,” Matisi said. “They really couldn’t sit back. So, we were able to get some easy shots because they had to extend their defense so much, and when our defense is playing like that, I feel like any basket we make feels like more than two points because we were very hard to score against today.”

The Tigers second half defense proved to be unshakeable as they closed out the Patriots with confidence. Springfield is thrilled to once again be district champs. For the Tigers, finishing on top in back to back years makes the win extra sweet.

“To do it again is just satisfying,” Matisi said. “It was a goal we had in preseason, and to be able to accomplish it, I think it’s a testament to our seniors, it’s a testament to what we’ve been doing here these past couple of years to get it done.”

With the victory, Springfield advances to the OHSAA regional bracket where they will face Dalton High School at Massillon Perry on March 2.

Matisi hopes that his team’s experience at regionals last year will prepare them for their coming matchup with Dalton.

“I’m hoping the experience from last year kind of helps us with prep this week,” Matisi said. “Being in a familiar gym that we’ve been at before, knowing what it takes to get a win. Our goals this year were winning the league title, the district title, and winning a game at Massillon. That’s going to be our goal.”

mcole@tribtoday.com

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