Springfield aims to extend its turnaround

SPRINGFIELD — There’s no explanation needed from Jordan Collins when he utters the phrase, “the Haverford game’ at practice Monday.

With six weeks of hindsight, that fateful Jan. 6 affair has served as the pivot point for Springfield’s season.

It wasn’t the most regrettable of losses — blowing a 22-point lead to Cardinal O’Hara or representing one of just three wins for Strath Haven this season still lead in that category. But the unsightly, 26-25 setback to a scrappy Haverford team that finished on the outside of the District One playoff picture by mere percentage points was the last straw.

From that defeat, which mired the Cougars at 5-6 in what appeared destined to be a random walk of a season, Springfield has authored a 10-2 record. And the Cougars have ridden that wave of success all the way to the District One Class AAAA second round, where Tuesday they will tangle with No. 4 seed Plymouth Whitemarsh.

The mistakes of the past aren’t being dredged up for nostalgia’s sake; they’re an inexorable facet of this team’s fabric. When coach Kevin McCormick says his team isn’t your typical No. 20 seed, it’s not hubris. It’s a reflection of the fact, for a variety of reasons, that Springfield underachieved while struggling for consistency through December.

Those difficulties are squarely in the past now.

“It was frustrating for us,’ Collins said. “We think we’re a lot better than we were playing, so we decided to pride ourselves on defense and go out there and play harder.’

McCormick says the emphasis was placed on simple points rather than wholesale changes. The Cougars refocused on defense, trying to prevent damaging lapses. The players developed a deeper understanding of their roles, especially on offense, allowing scorers like Collins and the younger Kevin McCormick to do their jobs while the others primarily shouldered the dirty work.

Once those alterations started working, the confidence that accompanied them snowballed, allowing streaks like the Cougars’ current seven-game winning run to flourish. The latest installment in that was a 45-42 win at No. 13 seed West Chester Henderson in Friday’s first round.

“I feel like when you win games, you get more confident,’ forward Quideer Wimes said. “You’ve got to play as a team. We work hard in practice, and it transfers to our games. And coach’s confidence makes us more confident.’

Wimes typifies the teamwork approach. The tight end on Springfield’s Central League-winning football team, the 6-5 forward admits it took most of December to transfer from “football shape’ to “basketball shape.’

Over the last four games, Wimes has averaged nine points, well over his previous season average of 6.5 ppg. And that only captures a fraction of what he brings to the table in terms of rebounding and shot deterrence in the lane.

On the defensive side of the ledger, Collins says the goal for Springfield is to hold teams to less than 48 points. When the Cougars do that this season, they’re 11-2. They haven’t allowed an opponent to go over 53 points since Jan. 1.

In the usual high school tempo battle, the Cougars don’t live at either end of the spectrum, but keeping the game at a reasonable score in the 50s or low 60s is no less vital.

Fittingly, the fewest points Plymouth-Whitemarsh (21-2) has scored in a game this season is 49. The Colonials are 9-0 when hitting the 70-point mark, including a 72-70 win over Chester during the holidays. P-W is also one of the few teams to deliver an opening-round performance commensurate with its seed, blowing the doors off Cheltenham, 73-33, avenging a loss from earlier in the season.

Guard Andre Mitchell scored 27 points in that affair, part of a group of athletic guards who can all fill it up, including Jimmy Murray and Xzavier Malone. They can get to the rim and hit 3s, as evidenced by the nine they sunk against Chester. That might make it difficult for Springfield to replicate the success it had in a zone defense against Henderson.

Whatever the Xs and Os may indicate, Springfield isn’t short on belief.

“I feel like we can beat anybody: Plymouth Whitemarsh, Chester, anybody,’ Wimes said. “We’ve just got to work hard and anything can happen.’

“No nervousness,’ Collins said. “Our whole team believes that we can beat anybody if we play our pace.’

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply