Sports Zone

Experienced youth leading Springfield

SPRINGFIELD – It might seem at first like “experienced youth” is a contradiction, but for the Springfield Millers girls basketball team, that might not be true. The Millers have only two seniors on the team and their starting five consists of one senior, one junior and three sophomores, yet the youth are anything but young.

Experience is flowing from all angles on a team that made it to last year’s state championship game. Senior Alexi Morgan was a key component during last year’s Class 5A finals run, sophomore Juju Henderson was 1st-team all-league and honorable mention all-state as a freshman and junior Danaeja Romero-Ah Sam is the reigning player of the year in the state.

Springfield also brings in two sophomore transfers to the starting five: JB Robinson from Mount Vernon HS in Georgia and Ryan Marshall from Sheldon. If you simply look at the roster sheet, you’d be deceived into thinking this team is inexperienced. In reality they have incredible depth, and it’s why they were voted the preseason No. 1 in the Class 5A coaches poll. It’s also why head coach Joe Williamson has high hopes.

“Our whole goal is not to be winning at the start of the season, but to be challenging ourselves to compete at the end of the season,” he said.

In order to prepare the team to compete at the end of the season Williamson put together a brutal pre-conference schedule that includes four preseason top-10 teams and a trip to the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona where eight of the top-25 teams in the nation will compete.

“I’m excited about that, you know, they’ve put us in one of the top brackets, and so we get a chance to go down there and play some teams that are going to really challenge us and make us better,” Williamson said. “Arizona’s going to be fun, and it’s gonna be challenging.”

Another part of that tough early-season schedule was Saturday’s game against preseason No. 4 Silverton, which Springfield defeated 54-39. The Millers dominated the second half enroute to beating Silverton for the second straight time after also eliminating the Foxes in the quarterfinals of last year’s playoffs.

The victory came after a 58-47 loss to Class 6A Sherwood the previous night.

“We played a really good Sherwood team last night and competed, and had our chances to win that game. And, let it slip away,” Williamson said after the game. “How we responded was going to be important, so really it was the bounce-back effort.”

It was the returning stars who carried the offense as Henderson and Romero-Ah Sam put up 18 and 17 points, respectively. Romero-Ah Sam especially came up clutch in the fourth quarter, putting a stop to multiple comeback attempts by Silverton.

“She’s just tough. I mean, Danaeja is a tough, gritty player,” Williamson said. “She came up big tonight every time they tried to make a run. She responded twice with jumpers, and that’s nice to have a player like that.”

After the game, Williamson said the team knows that just because they made it far last year that doesn’t guarantee them anything this season.

“We talked a ton about the fact that it doesn’t just happen,” he said.




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