WHITEMARSH — The Springfield Cougars prepared for this showdown with Plymouth-Whitemarsh in the second round of the District One Class AAAA tournament by going 5-on-6 and 5-on-7 during practice.
They wanted to mimic the size and athleticism of the Colonials. They wanted to feel the dynamic full-court trap that would be deployed on them. None of that did a whole lot.
“It’s not something we can replicate in practice,’ Springfield coach Kevin McCormick said. “It’s not the same thing.’
The Cougars lost, 49-35, Wednesday to the host Colonials. A victory would have secured a berth in the PIAA Tournament. Instead, the loss means a Friday playback game against Central League rival Penncrest, which lost its contest Wednesday to Lower Merion.
Springfield (15-9) turned the ball over 26 times in this one, including on each of its first four possessions. Before it could attempt a field goal, Plymouth-Whitemarsh (22-2) led 8-0. Before it could score, Plymouth-Whitemarsh led 14-0.
Seeded fourth in this tournament, the Colonials were simply too long and too athletic for these 20th-seeded Cougars.
“We’re not used to playing a team that fast,’ guard Dan Wasson said.
Jordan Collins had 13 points to front Springfield. He hit two 3-pointers during the third quarter to help cut the lead to eight. The Cougars entered the second half down, 27-11, and trailed by 18 at one point. They didn’t waver.
A 15-5 run ended the period, making it a game going into the fourth quarter. A Collins finger roll early on sent the deficit back down to eight. With 3:07 to go, a Brian McCloskey layup made it a nine-point game.
But the turnovers continued, and the Colonials hit their free throws. That was it.
“They transitioned from their pressure to attacking the rim so well,’ McCormick said. “We’re better for playing this game, even though we got beat.’
Andre Mitchell hit 8-of-9 free throws and led all scorers with 15. Devin Monteiro-Grey and Jimmy Murray both had 10 for the Colonials, who clinch a spot in state and advance, in this tournament, to the quarterfinals to face Lower Merion.
Against this bunch, Springfield knew it faced an uphill challenge. Down double digits early in a loud gymnasium, it could have folded. It did not.
“We kept our energy going,’ Wasson said. “Once we got down, we didn’t put our heads down. We tried to fight back, we just came up a little short.’
Problem was, the Cougars couldn’t score. Beyond the turnovers, they shot 14-of-34 from the field. McCormick, though, singled out the defensive effort — he wants his team to hold the opposition in the high 40s. It did that.
It just didn’t score nearly enough.
“Came back defensively,’ McCormick said. “But we weren’t getting up to (49) in this one.’
Instead, the Cougars will draw the familiar Lions, the No. 28 seed, in a playback game Friday at home. The two split their league matchups this year. Now, they meet with their respective seasons on the line.
“There’s no one I want to (play) more,’ Wasson said.
After dealing with the unending pressure of the Colonials, McCormick expects things to return to normal Friday. Two half court teams that know each other well. No secrets. No practicing or scouting needed, really.
Just a straight-up Central League game.
“There’s going to be no surprises — stops and shots game,’ McCormick explained. “It’ll be more of a possession-by-possession, tactical affair.’