The night of January 28th was the last time Central and Springstead were together on the court for the 2022 regular season. The only two questions I had were; Will Central finally break the one-point loss over Springstead? Or will Springstead break the Bears eleven-game winning streak?
There is this intense divine moment of competition when every player is watching their opponent. I often wonder what they’re thinking. What’s going through the minds of the players. Are the coaches re-evaluating all the game plays? How are they deciding which plays will work and which will not? You can try to decipher their emotions by watching their body language, facial expression, and even right down to their eyes. What you can’t see is what is in their heart and that’s where sportsmanship lies.
While Central and Springstead are the top two basketball teams in Hernando County, these two teams show how much diversity of talent can be found county-wide. Central dominated their opponents, displaying an 11 game winning trend after Sunlake (91-68) and River Ridge (90-36).
As we move to the southwest side of the county, we land at Springstead, who accomplished a three-point win over Lecanto on January 7th. However, Lecanto claimed it back on January 25th (44-39) to end the Eagle’s six-game winning streak, and Lecanto continued their conquest.
The 2021/2022 season’s first court appearance between the two was during Central’s Thanksgiving Holiday Tournament on November 24th, 2021, and it was important information to absorb. The tournament allowed both sides to see the style of competition they would be facing when they met again. Plus they had plenty of time to examine individual skill sets.
According to the box scores posted on MaxPreps, both Central and Springstead are level in the first and third period, but once the clock starts the fourth period, it’s like, “Dude, get in the battle and don’t stop fighting until you hear the buzzer.” It’s eight minutes of clock time with no skill limitations or boundaries. It’s all or nothing.
Let’s recap, shall we? Matt Zandecki stepped on Central High School’s basketball court as head coach in 2010. He started with a 2-20 record in the 2010-2011 season. “When I first took over was like 12 years ago, Central was kind of a program in disarray. I knew it was going to be a rebuilding process. My main goal was to get them back to respectability, a program with lots of tradition,” Zandecki said.
While under Zandecki’s coaching direction, the basketball statistics fluctuated season to season. However, his team began to show some consistency in 2015, oddly enough, that’s the same season Matthew McGarry stepped in as head coach for the Eagles.
Zandecki that this was one hump they couldn’t get over. He shared, “When you go against Springstead, you have to put four quarters together. It was a heartbreaking loss, but I am very proud of my team, and we have had a very successful year.”
Matthew McGarry began his head coaching career at Springstead in 2015 and ended that season with nine wins and 13 losses. Out of the six seasons under McGarry’s guidance, Springstead faced Central twelve times and only lost to them five. “My goal when I took over for my first year as a varsity coach was to get them back to prominence. How can we get this program back to something that people are talking about?” McGarry said.
While it may have taken McGarry a couple of years to accomplish that goal in gaining wins over losses, his game ethics pretty much worked for him. He stated, “Even those years when we were down, we’ve been able to be a competitive team and be a team to where you just can’t roll the balls out and go beat Springstead. You’re going to have to give them your best game. And that’s all I ever wanted. I just wanted a competitive program.”
Springstead will graduate seven seniors once the last second fades on the basketball scoreboard. Those students are Dy’lon Danese, Ronnie Roberts, Divine Torain, Gavin Korth-Loder, Tyreese Hill, Breon Wade, Jaquan Carswell, and Saquan Carswell.
“This might be the first time I really show any type of emotion at the last game. These are the longest group of kids I have coached. These were the kids we were rebuilding with, and it’s nice to see the fruits of our labor,” McGarry said.
Central will graduate three seniors. They are DJ Brown, Tre Joyner, and Jaron Bell. Both DJ Brown and Tre Joyner have been on the Bears’ four-year roster.
“DJ Brown and Tre Joyner will probably be the hardest that I have to replace in my twelve years here,” Zandecki said. “They define everything I want as a basketball player. Losing them is going to be tough. I am so proud of these seniors and astounded by what they have done.”
The gym bleachers were filled to about 95% occupancy, music was blasting, and promptly after 7:30 pm the announcer played the National Anthem followed by Central’s and Springstead’s starting lineup introductions.
The first period seemed a little slow. I figured both teams were warming up and saving the best for last. Second-period ball control just was a mess on both sides. If this was a football game, fumbles were up and down and side to side. At halftime the scoreboard shows Guest – 12 and Eagles -19.
I planted myself on the laminated flooring around 14 feet away from the net. I had one camera in hand and the other to my side. This spot is where the emotions are at the highest and the players’ adrenaline pumps the most. You can see the determination on the faces of each player attempting to retrieve a rebound. You can slightly feel vibrations bounce off the floor when the players descend from a jump. Ultimately, this is what I was waiting for and throughout the last two periods, both teams did not disappoint.
The most intense moment of the entire game is when the scoreboard lights displayed Guest – 39 and Eagles – 40, with only one minute and thirty-four seconds left in the fourth period.
Tre Joyner put two points on the board, leaving less than ninety seconds in the game. The Bears finally had the upper hand. The whole gym was in an uproar and it was intense. Then you hear the referee’s whistle after a play under Central’s net- foul on Central. This call leaves Springstead with total control over the outcome of this game. Ronnie Roberts brings the Eagles to 42. Gavin Korth-Loder obtains a free throw caused by another foul from Central with 8 seconds left. Springstead accomplished two more points over Central, ending Friday night’s game on January 28th, 2022, with Springstead – 44 and Central – 41.
Springstead Athletics Director Dustin Kupcik took to twitter to say, “The level of respect these teams/coaches have for each other was very evident. There were no post-game shakes, they were replaced with w/post-game hugs,” @Coach_Kup. Now it’s getting ready for districts!