SPRING HILL — When Oliver Simmons took over the Springstead program before this season, the question was how would he handle the roller coaster ride that has been Eagles basketball over the past three seasons. The answer is: Simmons has embraced it.
Although Springstead fell 54-43 at home to Countryside on Saturday, the Eagles came out strong at the tip-off and still stand at .500 this season.
Springstead (8-8), now led by its third coach in three seasons, was the state runnerup only three seasons ago with Pat Kelly at the helm. While former coach Steve Thompson shied away from that fact, Simmons stresses to his players that they have a strong foundation to build on.
"Obviously, we're still a work in progress with this program," Simmons said, "but it was only a couple years ago that this team went 31-1."
Naquan Inniss, the only player left from that title game roster, has been a major contributor. He chipped in 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists Saturday.
The Eagles were up 24-18 at the half as their physical play on defense had Countryside (8-12) on its heels. Ryan Vince, the Cougars' leading scorer, had five points at halftime.
In the third quarter, the tide turned on a flurry of technical foul calls. When Countryside center Eric Trager was called for a foul in the paint on Rashad Vanlow, he complained and was quickly given a technical. When Cougars coach Myron Huey protested, he was hit with a technical.
Oddly enough, the fouls had a reverse effect on the action. Springstead missed all six free throws. Countryside finished the quarter ahead 38-33 as the Eagles faded.
"It's like those free throws took the air out of our balloon," Simmons said. "When you're having a bad night like that, you have to be able to tighten up on defense, and we're not at that point yet."
Vince went on to finish with a game-high 29 points, including two shots from behind the 3-point arc.