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Springfield tops Poland to stay undefeated

Seandelle Gardner scores 11 in 4th quarter to lead Tigers past Poland and keep perfect season alive

Staff photo / Neel Madhavan Springfield’s Alex Rothwell (14) does a hook shot over Poland’s Carson Maurer (12) Tuesday night.

POLAND — Poland had its chances, but it was Springfield that managed to capitalize down the stretch Tuesday night.

With 2:26 left in the fourth quarter, the Tigers and Bulldogs were tied at 50. Springfield’s Seandelle Gardner took over from there. A layup put the Tigers (12-0) ahead, then he closed out the game at the free-throw line — making 6-of-6 free throws to ice a 60-50 win for Springfield to remain unbeaten.

“Seandelle at the free-throw line was the difference in the game,” Springfield head coach Jeff Brink said. “When you close out games, you have to be able to make free throws. That’s how you win games over good teams. To come in here and get a win, we feel very fortunate.”

Gardner finished with 12 points, with 11 of those coming in the fourth quarter.

On the flip side, Poland missed the front end of a 1-and-1 that could have tied the game, then missed a handful of threes and shots in the paint down the stretch as it tried to claw back into the game.

Poland (9-4) finished the game 7-for-15 at the free-throw line.

“When they went up 52-50, (Christian) Colosimo had a good look, but the ball just didn’t go in,” Poland head coach Eric Fender said. “They executed down the stretch.”

A Springfield scoring drought that started in the final minutes of the third quarter and didn’t end until Gardner hit a three-pointer about three minutes into the fourth allowed Poland to pull ahead and take a 41-39 lead into the final period.

In order to get out of that, Brink said he knew the Tigers could take advantage of Poland’s aggressiveness defensively. Poland switched from man-to-man to an extended zone and the Tigers attacked the paint with penetration and ball movement.

“We knew they were going to switch defenses, so I thought we did a pretty good job attacking and we got a couple slips inside and takes to the rim,” Brink said.

Springfield would outscore the Bulldogs 21-9 in the fourth.

“We changed it up at times and we extended every once in awhile,” Fender said. “We went back to man and were just trying to give them different looks that maybe they hadn’t seen or that they’re not comfortable with. (We were) just trying to get the defense to consistently make the offense adapt a little more.”

Adam Wharry carried Springfield offensively in the first half — hitting four three-pointers, including three in the first quarter alone. He’d go on to finish with a game-high 20 points.

“He’s not averaging 30 points per game because we have four players that are scoring 14 or 15 per game,” Brink said. “He’s capable of putting 25-30 up, but we just have a very balanced attack where we have a lot of other players that can score. But when he gets going, he’s as good as anybody in the area.”

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