SALEM, OHIO (WKBN) – Behind pressure defense and the hot hand of Drew Clark, the seconded-seeded Springfield Tigers pounded the third-seeded Columbiana Clippers Tuesday night 70-41. The victory propels the Tigers into a “rubber match” with MVAC rival Waterloo in the DIII District Final Friday night at Salem High School.
Click the video above to see extended highlights from tonight’s game.
The Tigers improve to 18-6 on the season as they will face the top-seeded Vikings after splitting the series with the Vikings in the regular season. Each team won on its own home court.
“Neutral court, a third time, we’ll see what happens with the start. They’re good and they play hard. They have a great coaching staff and great support from their community. We have a lot of respect for them and it’s going to be a fun game on Friday,” Tigers coach Steve French remarked about facing the Vikings for the third time.
“It’s the playoffs. Anything can happen in the playoffs,” Tigers forward Drew Clark added. “It could go either way, blow out, tight game, we won’t know but we just need to come ready to play. It’s not so much scouting. You know what they are going to do. They know what we’re doing. You just have to execute when you get out there.”
The Clippers and Tigers traded baskets early in the contest before late in the frame, Tigers forward Drew Clark hit three consecutive treys to stake the Tigers with a 14-9 lead at the close of the period. But that was just the beginning of the Tigers onslaught as they would go on an impressive 19-2 run to hold a 33-11 lead with 2:39 remaining in the first half. They would eventually carry a 36-14 lead into halftime.
“It really snowballed on us,” Clippers coach Todd Johnson admitted. “They (Springfield) are a great team and we knew walking in that they were better than their record indicated. We got rattled a little bit with their pressure. They got to us and we didn’t shoot the ball well at all.”
“I think our pressure bothered them,” French said. “We got some steals and made some shots. I think we held them to just five points in the second.”
“It starts with the defense and then just goes into the transition offense,” Clark added. “That’s our bread and butter. Once we get that, we start going on those runs.”
Clark would score a game-high 20 points in the game, including five three-pointers. He would also lead the Tigers on the boards as he grabbed 10 rebounds and four blocked shots. Clay Medvec picked up some of the slack in the second half as he scored 12 of his 16 game points after the break.
“We thought we had a mismatch there,” French remarked about Drew on the Clippers defenders. “He made the shots he put them in so credit Drew for giving us a spark there.”
“So the kid that was guarding me was sagging a little bit and I haven’t been very good with my three’s lately but I was putting them in tonight so I was glad about that,” Clark remarked.
The Tigers continued to pull away from the Clippers in the second half as they built a 25-point lead at 46-21 with a little over two minutes remaining in the third quarter. They would eventually hold a 28-point advantage at 52-24 at the end of the period.
To the Clippers credit, they came in the fourth quarter with a 7-1 run to cut the deficit to 21 at 53-31, but it was too little too late. The Tigers would go on to build a game-high 33 point advantage at 66-33 with just 3:44 remaining in the contest.
The Clippers, who finish the season with a 19-5 record, were led by senior guard Sean Whitehead with 10 points while Dalton Whitehair came off the bench to score 9, all on three-pointers. Matthew Mazei would lead the Clippers on the boards with 8 rebounds.
“One game doesn’t define what we were able to do as a basketball team this year. This was an outstanding season, the best season Columbiana has had in twelve years. Winning our league, winning a sectional championship, a lot of stuff that hasn’t been done in quite a while at Columbiana,” Johnson said about the Clippers season.
“We came in since our freshman year and to go 19-5 this year has been unbelievable,” Clippers senior center Mazei added. “It was everything we had worked towards. It was what we preached all year.”