NEW MIDDLETOWN-The scenario was the same, the uniform was not.
Back in December, South Range's Morgan Czopur drained a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Raiders a two-point win against Springfield. In the rematch Thursday night, with a share of the conference lead on the line, the Tigers got a sweet script reversal.
With the score tied, junior guard Callie Ford banked in a three-pointer as the clock expired to give Springfield a intensely-fought 47-44 win at Springfield High School. It was the Tigers only three of the game.
"We normally make a lot more than that, but I was happy to make the one that counted," Ford said. "South Range has really pushed us hard in both games this year but we kept fighting and tonight things went our way at the end."
The Tigers improve to 13-2 overall and 8-1 in the Inter-Tri County League upper tier, pulling into a tie in the loss column with the Raiders (13-2, 9-1).
"We fought until the last tick of the clock," Springfield coach Jim Schuler said. "It was just a great game to be a part of. It was back-and-forth all night and finally at the end it turned our way."
Ford's game-winning shot was set up by a clutch defensive play by Jillian Tabaka. Baylee Felger had just missed a free throw that would have given the Tigers the lead. South Range grabbed the rebound and called timeout. With 10 seconds left the Raiders inbounded the ball at mid-court, but Tabaka jumped into the passing lane and came up with the steal. With time ticking away, the senior alertly pushed the ball upcourt to Ford who dribbled into the right wing, pulled up and released the shot just before the buzzer.
"As soon as a got the ball I looked up at the clock and saw there was about six seconds left," Ford said. "I looked to the spot on the floor I thought I could take it and just tried to get the shot off as quickly as possible."
"It was a great play by Jill (Tabaka)," Schuler said. "To have the wherewithal to make that quick pass was outstanding."
"I was expecting a little bit more defensive pressure from them on the inbounds pass," South Range head coach Tony Matisi said. "They sagged their defenders off more than we thought and we didn't run the play very cleanly. I thought our defense did a good job of scrambling back, Ford just made a very tough shot."
Ford finished the game with 12 points, four rebounds and five assists, forward Baylee Felger had 16 points and 11 rebounds and guard Kennedy Richey had 12 points for the Tigers.
"We had a lot of different people step up tonight," Schuler said. "Baylee (Felger) played huge for us tonight, controlling the boards."
For South Range, Czoper led the way with 13 points, five rebounds and two steals, Starla Sharp had six points, six rebounds and two steals and Sara Durr had eight points and four rebounds.
"Starla Sharp battled like a senior should tonight, Morgan (Czopur) was steady like she always is and Sara (Durr) played well for us off the bench when we needed some size," Matisi said. "We played well and fought so hard for 32 minutes, it's hard to pin everything on that inbounds play. I was very proud of our players."
With the score tied at 40 and under two minutes left, Czopur hurled herself into two defenders for a rebound and was fouled, making both attempts to give the Raiders the lead. South Range led 43-40 with 30 seconds left before Ford made a reverse layup to cut it to one. After the Raiders made one of two free throws, Felger tied it with a jumper and was fouled. Her miss set the stage for the dramatic ending.
"Every possession was hard-fought and we knew we just had to keep pushing," Ford said. "It was very intense, we just had to try and stay calm each possession and try to take good shots."
South Range won the jayvee game 59-37. Lynnie Ritter had 18 points for the raiders. Kasey Kohler had 10 points for the Tigers.
The largest lead for either team was six by South Range in the third quarter. The Tigers went on a 9-2 run to tie it and no lead was larger than one possession the rest of the way.
"I told our girls to step back and enjoy it," Matisi said. "It was just a great back-and-forth battle. You never felt comfortable in anything you were doing."
Springfield has already surpassed it's conference win total from last year, when the Tigers were 6-8.
"I view it as more of a natural progression than a turnaround," Schuler said. "We had four starters back. They have played a lot of minutes, and really gained an understanding of how to play the game and got a chance to polish their skills."
SOUTH RANGE: 15-10-9-10-44
SOUTH RANGE SCORING: Ashley Sharp 2-2-6, Jordan Youngs 2-1-6, Morgan Czoper 4-4-13, Starla Sharp 2-2-6, Sierra Petrella 1-3-5, Sara Durr 4-0-8. TEAM TOTALS: 15, 12-17: 44.
SPRINGFIELD SCORING: Baylee Felger 7-2-16, Kennedy Richey 6-0-12, Jillian Tabaka 1-0-2, Callie Ford 4-3-12, Mary Ritter 1-0-2, Emily Stacy 0-3-3. TEAM TOTALS: 19, 8-17: 47.
Three-point goals: South Range 2 (Youngs, Czoper), Springfield 1 (Ford).