By John Bombatch
SPRINGFIELD — The Xenia Buccaneers held their own in the first half of Tuesday night’s game at Springfield High, but in the second half it was the bigger Wildcats who muscled their way to a 75-59 win.
“Tonight we got exposed on some things that we still have to get better at,” Xenia coach Kent Anderson said. “We hadn’t played in 15 days and we kinda forgot some things.”
Before Tuesday’s contest, Xenia hadn’t played since last year. They won a road game at Dayton Meadowdale on Dec. 21.
Xenia (7-2) held a 31-29 lead at halftime, with solid offense from Samari Curtis (10 points, including a pair of threes) and Rocky James (eight points). But Springfield’s big man Darius Harper tied the game with an inside score and the Wildcats outscored Xenia 22-10 in the third quarter to grab a 10-point lead, which at the time was the largest lead of the game.
“I haven’t seen what the rebounding totals were tonight, but we just got manhandled on the boards,” Anderson said. “If we’re undersized like that and out-weighed then we’re gonna get beat.
“We attacked well offensively in the first half, but when Isiah (Springfield coach Isiah Carson) switched to a zone defense, I thought we became very stagnant. We did a lot of individual stuff, one-on-one, we’d shoot it and then stand around. We wouldn’t go to the boards like we needed to. You combine that with some finishes at the rim — we left 5-6 shots on the rim, especially in the first half — we should have gone up double figures at the half and make them come chase us. That opens the floor up and they have to stay man-to-man, but we didn’t do that.
“We shoot freethrows better than that, but we didn’t do that tonight. There’s a lot of phases of the game — the turnovers, too — the combination of those things just got us tonight.”
Springfield has now won seven straight games and eight of their last nine.
Harper finished with a game-high 20 points to lead the Wildcats (8-2). Michael McKay finished with 19 points, 12 of which came in the second half, and the team’s leading scorer — Danny Davis — finished with 15. Springfield gets back into Greater Western Ohio Conference Central Division action on Friday when they’ll play at Huber Heights Wayne for a 7:30 p.m. battle.
Curtis led the Bucs with 17 points, Danny Naylor tossed in 11, Rocky James finished with a dozen and the team’s leading scorer — Ray James — fouled out in the second half with 10 points.
Anderson says the team has no time to brood over a loss.
“We’ve gotta get refocused and get ready for a big game Friday when we go down to Springboro, which is basically a game to determine who will lead the GWOC South after the first rotation of games,” Anderson said. “We can’t hang our heads. We gotta get back to work.”
Xenia’s game at Springboro pits two of the GWOC South’s first-place teams together for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff. Fairborn is the other leader, sitting at 2-0 in the division thus far. The Springboro Panthers were at Clayton Northmont on Tuesday night. The Panthers had won six of their last seven contests heading into the game with the Thunderbolts.