2016-12-15 / Sports

Offensive woes doom Cosmos

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By TIM TAYLOR

SPRINGFIELD — It was almost as if someone had placed an invisible cover over the rim when Springfield was attempting a field goal Wednesday evening. The Cosmos struggled to get the ball through the rim in a 44-37 loss to Leland & Gray.

Despite the setback, the Cosmos did show promise at times during the contest.

“When we talked to them after the game one of the things we said was we wanted to do the little things well and I thought in the first half there were a few opportunities we didn't execute,” said Springfield coach Michael Ruppel. “I think we missed nine, 10 free throws in the first half. We missed a few layups or open jump shots that the guys typically make in practice, missed a few box-outs. So, it's really taking care of the little things, but I think some of the big things are in place for us, which I'm excited about.”

While Springfield shot an ice-cold 6-for-41, the Rebels had to fight off a late-game challenge to survive. Three-pointers by Adam Culver and Lucas Newton helped L&G build a 38-24 advantage as the third quarter was winding to a close, but the Cosmos refused to go away.

Caleb Hunter scored the final points of the period with a minute to go to cut the lead to 38-28, then Noah Zierfus and Alex Naccarato sunk two free throws apiece early in the fourth to trim the gap to 38-32. An exchange of free throws from L&G's Newton and Zierfus made it 40-34.

With both teams in the bonus, Newton would miss two foul shots with 12:33 left and two seconds later Naccarato would make two to pull Springfield within 40-36. Newton would go 1-for-2 at the charity stripe with 37 ticks on the clock Hunter made the second of two attempts with 23 seconds left.

Clinging to a 41-37 edge, the Rebels got a free throw from Aaron Claussen with 21 seconds remaining, then Caleb Thibault came up with a big steal near the Springfield bench with 15 clicks on the clock. Thibault was fouled on the play and sank his only two free-throw attempts of the night to seal the win.

The free-throw line had been relatively kind to the Cosmos throughout the game. Leland & Gray went 8-for-18 at the stripe and was only 6-for-14 in the fourth quarter. Springfield took 38 foul shots, making 24. It may not have been lights out, but the home team's 63 percent was better than L&G's 44 percent.

“Obviously, Leland & Gray is an aggressive team and one part of our game plan was to get to the foul line and attack them,” Ruppel said. “I though we did a pretty good job of that. We were aggressive on ball screens and aggressive in transition. I didn't know the number, but 24 points off the foul line, that's going to help you win games.”

The Cosmos were 7-for-10 in the opening period to keep things close. A basket and two free throws from GJ Scherington helped the hosts stay within 10-8 after the first eight minutes.

Springfied would take a brief 11-10 edge on Austin Rowe's basket early in the second, but a pair of field goals from Newton gave the Rebels a 24-18 lead at the half.

Newton and Culver put up five points apiece in the third quarter to fend off the Cosmos, who scored three of their six baskets in the period. The second and third quarters were Springfield's most productive of the night scoring-wise (10 points in each), but were also L&G's best periods as well as they scored 14 in each.

“When you hold a team to 44 points at the varsity level you're going to win more than you lose,” Ruppel said. “Our goal is to keep teams under 10 points a quarter. It happened in I think the first and fourth, but the second and fourth we weren't quite as sharp defensively and that's something we've got to work on, on tired legs, how we can still play defense and keep our assignments.”

Naccarato would lead the Springfield scoring effort with eight points and he was 5-for-6 at the line. Caleb Hunter added seven points, Dakota Bushey went 6-for-8 at the stripe for all of his scoring, and Scherington and Zierfus chipped in with six points apiece.

Newton led the Rebels with 10 points.

Springfield won the JV game in convincing fashion, 51-20.

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