COLUMBIANA - Defending league champion Springfield Local may already have a lead in the Inter-Tri County League upper tier boys basketball race, but the Tigers are playing it real close to the vest for now.
Against Crestview on Friday, the Tigers toiled in turnovers and sloppy play for 30 minutes before turning it on in the final two minutes to sneak by Crestview 47-42.
"When you're the No. 1 team in the league, you're going to get everyone's best shot," Springfield coach Eric Fender said. "It's difficult, but you have to be up for every game. It also makes it a little bit more exciting and more fun for the kids."
Springfield is 6-0 and 5-0 in the ITCL upper tier. Mineral Ridge, who the Tigers beat on Tuesday, and East Palestine trail Springfield by a game.
Senior point guard Eoghan Bees pushed the Tigers over the hump against a pesky Crestview team by scoring 12 of his 18 points in the final quarter. He also had six steals and four assists.
"Crestview is a physical team," Bees said. "They came out and hit us in the mouth and played hard. I give them a lot of credit for playing a hard game. This was hard to come in here and to beat them on their home floor."
With three minutes to go, the game was tied at 36. The Tigers then went on an 8-0 run - with most of those points scored with less than two minutes to play - to pull into a safe zone.
"We didn't practice well this week, but on Tuesday and Friday we showed we can play well against two very good teams in Crestview and Mineral Ridge," Bees said.
Aside from an unhealthy amount of turnovers for both teams -Crestview had 26, Springfield 14 - the focus of most of the action was on 6-foot, 3-inch Springfield sophomore Mark Schuler and 6-3 Crestview junior Robert Logan.
Schuler spraked the Tigers in the paint with 18 points and nine rebounds. Logan, coming off tying the school single-game scoring record on Tuesday with 46 against United, had 19 points and 14 rebounds against the Tigers.
"It was a nice challenge," Schuler said. "There's not many post players that have as many moves as he does."
The Rebels, who many league coaches thought would be in the mix for the title chase, are three games out at 3-4 overall and 2-3 in the league.
"Tonight we played well enough to win in about 26 of the 32 minutes," Crestview coach Herman Miller said. "We had a chunk of possessions in the third period and a chunk of possessions in the fourth period that resulted in a five-point difference in the game."
Miller said he thought the Rebels played the Tigers as tough as anyone so far, but that missed opportunities on the offensive end killed any chance of Crestview coming out on top.
"When you average 17 or 18 turnovers a game, those are eight or nine shots you don't get," Miller said. "Add another eight or nine shots and make half of them. what does it do for you? It makes a big difference."
The two teams played to a 20-20 tie in the first half. Crestview led by as many as five in the third quarter before the Tigers came back and grabbed a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Outside of Logan, Evan Nentwick had nine points, four steals and four assists to lead the Rebels at the guard position. Jared McTigue equaled Schuler on the boards with nine rebounds.
Springfield is back in action on Dec. 29 at Poland. Crestview will try to get back on track with a home game against Heartland on Dec. 28.
SPRINGFIELD SCORING: Eoghan Bees 5-6-18, Alex Wharry 1-0-2, Jared McTigue 1-1-3, Joe Caraballo 0-0-0, Joe Wrask 1-2-4, Jake Ohlin 0-0-0, Mark Schuler 7-3-18, Brandon Chamberlain 1-0-2. TEAM TOTALS: 16-51, 12-25: 47.
SPRINGFIELD SCORING: Evan Nentwick 2-5-9, Collin Gilbert 1-0-3, Austin Eskra 0-0-0, Josh McDade 1-0-2, Nick Gates 1-0-2, Robert Logan 9-1-19, Greg Bable 0-0-0, Derek Bable 3-1-7. TEAM TOTALS: 17-49, 7-13: 42.
Three-point goals: Springfield 3 (Bees, Schuler), Crestview 1 (Gilbert).