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Springfield waits for returning players

The Springfield Tigers are scheduled to begin their boys basketball season on Dec. 10, but coach Steven French has yet to see his full lineup on the court.

Five of the team’s seven returning lettermen have been absent from preseason practices. Evan Ohlin, Lukas Yemma, Beau Brungard, Garrett Stallsmith and Clay Medvec are all still focused on bringing home a state title on the gridiron. Drew Clark and Adam Wharry are the lone returners available.

While the football team’s success makes preparing for the season more difficult, French has been enjoying seeing his players perform.

“It’s a good thing,” French said. “We love seeing them win. It’s been a fun ride and I want it to continue. In terms of hoops, practices are maybe a little shorter, we get some more reps in a smaller amount of time and just trying to get creative.”

That creativity may prove to be an asset down the road as the season progresses.

“We have a wide range of abilities on the team right now so we’ve been able to get creative and play a lot more small-sided games,” French said. “The continuity is there. We’re going to kind of do the same stuff so it’ll be OK when those guys get back.”

When those players return, the Tigers have a lineup quite similar to last year. Last season, Springfield powered through the Struthers District and found itself in the Canton Regional title game where the team saw its season end in a three-point loss to Richmond Heights.

“Last year was tremendous,” French said. “A great run to the regional final and that’s something you’ll never forget. We really put an emphasis on ‘every year is a new team and last year’s over.

“Good job, but now we’ve got to focus on the here and now.’ We have some good goals to get back to a game like that.”

Like last year’s football team that missed the playoffs with one loss and has powered back to the state semifinals, the basketball team has a chance to come out and go on a “revenge tour” of its own. With many of the same players, the mentality is there for the basketball team to achieve the same feat.

According to French, winning the Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference is the first step to getting back to that point.

“It starts with the league,” he said. “We want to win the league, be competitive there and be competitive every day. Practice hard and make sure we’re preparing the best team we can be in March.”

The quest to win the league will be a challenge, but March gets more difficult as the Tigers move up from Division IV to Division III. Their approach to the tournament is no different, however, as their regular season looks to be a perfect preparation for the postseason with many familar faces on the regular season slate.

“I think a lot of the frontrunners, when you look at that district, Waterloo is a team that brings everyone back and we’re familiar with them,” French said. “South Range is another really good team. We play them in the regular season every year … You prepare for everybody as the year goes along and once the brackets come out you formulate a plan.”

The Tigers are scheduled to tip off their season on Dec. 10 at home against Crestview at 7 p.m. The orginal season-opening game against Salem was pushed back to Dec. 21.

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