CANTON - It was a case of history repeating itself for the Springfield Tigers.
Springfield beat St. Thomas Aquinas last week to advance to the Division III regional semifinal - just like in 2003. And just like in 2003, the Tigers faced Bedford St. Peter Chanel at regionals.
Unfortunately for the Springfield, it was the Firebirds who came out on top - just like 2003. The Tigers fell 55-37 on Wednesday at Canton Memorial Field House, breaking their 11-game winning streak and ending their season with a 21-3 record.
"We executed our game plan as best as we could," Springfield coach Eric Fender said. "We have nothing to hang our heads about."
Chanel's full-court, high-pressure defense proved to be more than the Tigers could handle. Chanel forced more than 20 turnovers - and turned many of them into easy transition buckets.
"They're just relentless," Fender said. "We knew coming in we were going to get ball pressure for 32 minutes. Until the kids get on the floor, it's so tough to simulate that. Not many teams in the Youngstown area have that kind of quickness, especially nine deep."
First-year Chanel coach Hugh McMahon said he and his team have focused on defense all season.
"That's been our staple all year," he said. "I'm not sure (Springfield) has seen anything like that all year. Chanel has been known for their defense for years, and when I took over, I wasn't going to lose that. If anything, I wanted to emphasize it more.
"I like that we held them in the 30s, and I like that 90 percent of their shots were contested. When we hold someone in the 30s, I like our chances. I'm happy with our defensive effort."
The Tigers kept things close through the first quarter, striking first when Jared McTigue dropped in a bucket at the 6:51 mark. Chanel scored the next five, getting a layup off a steal and hitting 3-of-4 free throws. The teams traded buckets over the last 4:30, and the Tigers trailed 9-8 after one.
Chanel jumped out quick in the second, hitting a quick three before adding two more over the first three minutes, opening a 10-point lead. Springfield didn't score again until nearly five minutes into the quarter, when junior Alex Wharry connected on a three-pointer to end Chanel's run and make it 18-11. The Firebirds fired right back, though, going on a 9-2 run to close the half up 27-13.
"We knew we had to take away the penetration," Fender said. "But they did a great job spreading us out and getting us out of our zone and into man-to-man, which we're not as comfortable with."
In the second half, Chanel picked up where they left off - scoring six points in the first 40 seconds, including two steals right in front of their own bucket. After trailing by as many as 21, Springfield went on a 13-4 run to pull within 12 before a last-second putback by Chanel's 6-foot-5 Kyree Brewer made it 43-29 heading into the fourth.
"They're pretty athletic. We knew we had to shoot well to have an opportunity," Fender said. "They were up in our face, quick to recover and made us shoot shots that we weren't comfortable with. We got some easy ones, but we missed some easy ones, too. The shots just wouldn't fall. We probably had six missed layups. The ball was just not falling tonight."
Senior Nick Russell led the Tigers' effort, finishing with 11 points, nine rebounds and four blocks.
"We just couldn't get into our sets, and our shots weren't falling," Russell said. "The only time we've seen that much pressure was against St. Thomas Aquinas in the district finals, and they weren't as quick (as Bedford).
Russell and some of his teammates now have to make a quick turnaround and get ready for baseball season. The Tigers baseball team made it to the state tournament last year.
"We've had a couple little practices," he said. "We're hoping to fill up a couple spots and do at least as well as last year."
As one of the focal points of Chanel's defense, Springfield senior and leading scorer Ron Rogers finished with eight points and eight rebounds. Tom Mastran added seven points and two steals.
For Chanel, Dan Bailey finished with 13 points, Tommie Williams had eight points, nine steals and four assists, Ishmael Hargrove scored eight and grabbed seven rebounds and Damon Jones had six assists, three steals and four points. Montell Goodwin and Kyree Brewer each added eight points.
Chanel will move on to the regional championship at 7:30 p.m. Saturday against Burton Berkshire. Berkshire defeated Orrville 50-45 in Wednesday's late game.
SPRINGFIELD: 8-5-16-8 - 37
BEDFORD CHANEL: 9-18-16-12 - 55
SPRINGFIELD SCORING: Joe Ohlin 1-0-2, Jake Ohlin 0-0-0, Joe Caraballo 0-0-0, Eoghan Bees 0-0-0, Joe Johnson 0-0-0, Nick Russell 5-0-11, Tom Mastran 2-2-7, Anthony Scandy 0-0-0, Ron Rogers 2-4-8, Jared McTigue 2-0-4, Joe Wrask 0-0-0, Alex Wharry 1-0-3, Ryan Stacy 1-0-2. TEAM TOTALS: 14, 6-9: 37.
BEDFORD ST. PETER CHANEL SCORING: Tommie Williams 2-3-8, Brionne Duke 1-0-2, Andrew Pickard 0-0-0, Montell Goodwin 3-0-8, Raymond Hill 0-0-0, Damon Jones 2-0-4, Kyree Brewer 4-0-8, Dan Bailey 6-0-13, Ishmael Hargrove 4-0-8, D'Angelo Fluellen 0-0-0, Joe Hines 2-0-4, Mario Greene 0-0-0, Steven Webb 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 23, 5-10: 55.
Three-point goals: Springfield 3 (Russell, Mastran, Wharry), Bedford St. Peter Chanel 4 (Goodwin 2, Bailey, Williams).