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Springfield tops Warren JFK for 3rd consecutive district title

Brungard nets 33 as Springfield captures third consecutive district championship

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Members of Springfield’s girls basketball team celebrate their district championship victory over Warren JFK as a Kennedy player shows emotion over the Eagles’ loss.

MINERAL RIDGE — Not one, not two, the Springfield Tigers have now won their third straight district title. In a back-and-forth battle worthy of its stakes, the Tigers dispatched Kennedy 52-49 to earn another district trophy.

“I’m so happy for the kids. To do it with a different group this year, everyone liked to talk about what we lost, but nobody really talked about what we were bringing back,” Springfield coach John Matisi said. “So for this group to come out and win a league title, win another district title, I’m so happy for them because they were such a big part of our run the last couple of years, and now people are getting to see them put their own year on the wall.”

One of those returners is junior Jameka Brungard. To call her a force on Saturday might be an understatement, as Brungard racked up a 33-point performance despite the Eagles’ heavy pressure.

“We always say when she wants to play, there’s nobody that can stop her,” Matisi said. “We were keeping her up on the press break a lot to end the year. Tonight was a night where we thought we needed her back just to finish against them a little more. She was cleaning up the misses and being able to finish over them was huge. She was getting us baskets, not just breaking up their stuff but getting baskets at the other end against their pressure.”

Matisi made sure to mention how things like this are special, and while the job isn’t finished, they need to appreciate a little what they’ve been able to accomplish the last three years.

“We looked up at the wall today, and we’re telling them how this is very rarefied air. This is something that not a lot of people get to do. Don’t take this for granted. Just understand how special this is while you’re in it. I know it’s easy to look back, but like, take note there and appreciate it, because this is just very special.”

In the fourth quarter, Kennedy looked to be dead and buried, but one blink and you would have missed the Eagles rallying back, taking the lead with around a minute and a half left.

The aggressive Kennedy defense forced multiple fast breaks and erased its deficit with a 17-point fourth quarter — all from a quick mindset change.

“It was just changing the mindset, and to pick up man-full (defense),” Eagles coach Marc Morgan said. “It’s not something that we do a ton of, but I knew that we had the foot speed, and it would take (Brungard) out of the game a little bit, neutralize her because they wouldn’t be able to use her. I thought early, we’d be able to do that in the zone press, but obviously they worked on it to mitigate that in some capacity.

“I thought when we went to full-court man, we were getting a lot more trouble, so I thought that’s where the run came from. The energy started to get there, we started to get some easier looks in transition, which obviously makes us a better team.”

Kennedy’s season ends at 18-7. Didi Ryan paced Kennedy with 21 points, while Ava Darney had 10 points and Gianna Pompelia added 11.

With a solid core returning, expect the Eagles to make a similar run next season. It’ll be an uphill battle without seniors Darney, Marina Sanders, and Veronica Fields but Morgan is optimistic one of his girls will take the reins.

“This is one of those scenarios where I want them to remember this. You never want to feel this feeling again and you know what you have to do to not have that happen. It’s the work that you’ve done, it’s continuing to do it and get better every day,” Morgan said. “I’m not unhappy. I mean, obviously, I want to win the game, but I’m happy with how far our kids came, from the beginning of the year, looking at this team, watching us practice and going, ‘I don’t know if we’ll go .500,’ and just getting to this point, I am so elated with how we finished the year.

“We got punched in the face a few times and then came back and rallied. I’m super excited for what we have coming back. Obviously, I don’t want to lose my true leader (Darney). She is the blueprint of this program. I hope that someone can take what she did for us and lead from there. I hope we get that person and one of those steps up to do that. I think they have it now in their mind, and they know what they need to do. Now we’ve just got to make sure we take care of it.”

Springfield (19-7) is set to take on Richmond Heights in the Division IV, Massillon Regional semifinals.

Have an interesting story? Contact Brian Yauger by email at byauger@tribtoday.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @_brianyauger.

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