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Bulk of Eagles lineup returns next season

Springstead's demeanor after Thursday's 55-46 loss to Orlando Bishop Moore was one of resignation. There weren't any tears or solemn faces or angry scowls. Some of the players bought leftover hot dogs at the concession stand before they left the gym for the night.

The players all seemed to have the same thing to say: "No one expected us to get this far anyway." Even coach Craig Swartout intimated those sentiments.

Swartout was more concerned with next season, as were the players. Springstead played seven players regularly throughout the season. Five return next season, which Tim Hennigan, Derek Skinner and Swartout mentioned as a reason for optimism. It was their "glass half full" way of alleviating much of the frustration from the loss.

"We got Ethan (Selph) coming back, Derek and Tim coming back, the Hayneses (Jeff and Jason) coming back - we have a good nucleus to try to do this again next season," Swartout said.

Such optimism, though, overlooks what will be a great absence - AB Rodriguez. In the midst of praising Rodriguez for his play and value to the squad, Swartout preached all season the Eagles weren't a one-man team.

Next season, they will have to prove that. It was clear against Bishop Moore that, though the Hornets were smaller, they were more skilled. Guards DJ Ferguson and Danny Krazit slashed in and out of the Eagles defense, scoring 42 points. They controlled the ball, ran the offense, pressured the Eagles into turnovers and Krazit was up in Rodriguez's chest all evening, holding him to 10 points.

Rodriguez was the only Eagle who could do similar things. Hennigan, already aware of some of the holes Rodriguez's departure creates for Springstead, said he is going to immediately begin working on his game to become a more complete player.

"Ball-handling, getting in the weight room, getting with the other guys on our AAU team," he said. "We want to come back better players next year. We don't want this same feeling at the end of the year."

Vincent Thomas can be reached at vthomas@sptimes.com or 352-848-1430.

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