When tournament time comes around, take everything that you thought you knew about District 10-AAA basketball and throw it out the window.
While the talent was never in question, Northeast struggled to end their regular season and limped into the district tournament. The Eagles had lost five of their previous six games and only managed a top four seed in the district after beginning the year with state tournament aspirations.
Their opponents, the Springfield Yellow Jackets, contrasted Northeast entirely by being one of the hottest teams in 2021. The Yellow Jackets were winners of 10 of their last 14 games heading into the meeting, and managed to right the ship on what was once a winless season.
However, NEHS and its eight seniors seemingly kicked themselves into shape with a 77-43 win over Springfield. Northeast nailed five triples in the first quarter alone and never looked back against the Yellow Jackets. The 77 points scored on the evening is tied for their second-highest offensive output all season.
After falling behind 27-16 in the first, Springfield attempted to stop what was a track meet by consistently drawing fouls. The Yellow Jackets attempted 10 free throws in the second period, but still trailed 45-29 at the break. They managed to bring the deficit within 10 points early in the third, but a massive 21-2 run from Northeast silenced any attempts at a comeback.
“One of the things we wanted to do tonight was try to speed the game up and I thought we did a good job of that,” said NEHS coach Sam Young. “Just trying to not let them play at their pace and I thought tonight we did a good job of playing at our pace. I thought that kind of dictated the game early.”
The defeat finishes SHS’ season at 10-13. Springfield earned the tournament’s fifth seed with its incredible turnaround, but a lack of making up postponed games ultimately sealed their fate. The Yellow Jackets graduate two seniors in Savion Scott and Caleb Chapman.
“I just hate it, the way things ended,” said Springfield head coach Micah Rochester. “Not that we lost, just the fact that the score was so lopsided. I felt like in moments of the game we played really well and were right there with them, but we just couldn’t do it for 32 minutes.”
Swingman Isaiah Farrior kept the Eagles’ season alive and led all scorers on the night with 21 points. Farrior admits that Northeast did fail to live up to regular season expectations, but that their clean slate in the tournament only benefits them moving forward.
“If you go to the beginning of the season to now, we were playing good with big teams, but we would play down the competition during the district,” he said. “It’s a growth thing, so we got to see that and we responded up. I feel like we’re just ready.”
Young also saw the maturation of his team in the quarterfinal round and believes that their cohesion will impact Tuesday’s semifinal match at No. 1 Henry County.
“I think the guys realize that they didn’t want to go home yet,” Young said. “We’ve had some games where we’ve lost some close battles by a few points here and there. Tonight was also something where we had everybody back for the first time in a month, so I thought that played a key factor as well.”
Northeast (77): Isaiah Farrior 21, Jalen Hooks 15, Jaylan Miller 15, Jalen Bussey 8, Keaton Allen 6, Marcus Averhart 5, Dez Fort 5, BJ Russell 2.
Springfield (43): Keyshawn Robinson 15, Caleb Chapman 7, Savion Scott 7, Jacquarium Collum 4, Malik Harrell 4, Keimarian Flair 3, Alarric Hudson 2, Kymarion Gardner 1.