Undefeated Tigers earning attention

NEW MIDDLETOWN -- Carrie Davis still remembers the first time she heard the news.
The Springfield High girls basketball team had just been ranked in the Division III state poll and word began to spread throughout the Tigers' locker room.
"You're kidding me, right?" she told the messenger.
Why was Davis, a four-year varsity player, so shocked?
"Because the teams I've been on in the past, it was never something we even thought about," she said.
But this is a different team and these are different times.
Sharing the wealth
No longer are the Springfield boys gathering all the attention in New Middletown, the Inter-County League and across the state.
The girls are finally having a say -- with good reason.
"This could be the best team I've ever had," said Sandi Kohler, the 11th-year head coach, whose team is 12-0, 6-0 ICL going into Thursday's home game against Mineral Ridge.
The reason is simple. The Tigers finally have all the pieces needed to become a championship-caliber team.
"Now, everybody's gunning for us with every win; the target on our back gets bigger," said Davis, whose team was ranked eighth in the state poll last week.
They have a consistent scorer (6-foot junior Lindsay Johnson) and some size (6-foot senior Katie Houk), a true point guard (senior Sarah Fannon) and a reliable defender (junior Angelina Fiumara).
"Role-wise, we fill every spot," Kohler said. "It's something we don't always have."
Scouting report
Springfield's success begins with Johnson, a versatile player who averages around 20 points and nine rebounds per game.
"She gives us what Robin Thayer and Crystal Schuler always gave South Range," Kohler said of the former prep standouts. "She creates match-up problems for people."
Running that offense is Fannon, whom Kohler calls a "key component" for the Tigers.
"She just sees the floor so well," the coach said. "She's able to keep us under control, she finds the open player and she doesn't panic."
Fiumara represents Springfield's intentions every time it steps onto the floor -- taking over a game with defensive intensity.
"She's 5-8 and she runs like a deer," Kohler said. "She's very athletic and physically strong. If we had a soccer team in our school, she'd be a star."
The starting lineup of Johnson, Fannon and Fiumara is complemented by the presence of Davis and junior Danielle DeWitt.
"She's a great leader. She's like a coach on the floor," Kohler said of Davis, who has a 4.0 grade-point average. "She's one of our top defensive players and when we need a basket, she gets it."
DeWitt gives the Tigers another piece to their defensive puzzle and, as a guard, helps Fannon in distributing the ball on offense.
Springfield, which shared the Inter-County League title with Lowellville last season, also has plenty of depth.
Sophomores Christy Warren and Samantha Cavalier, in addition to Houk, are the first players off a bench that extends 12 deep.
"Everybody has something to add to the team," Davis said. "Each player has something they're absolutely outstanding at, and in the areas they may not be outstanding, they do contribute."
Looking ahead
Every win brings added pressure and higher expectations. Sometimes, Kohler hears the question, "Coach, can you go 20-0?"
The close-knit Tigers counter the outside influences by relying on their motto of "One Heartbeat." No matter what happens, they will reach their destination together.
"I tell my kids that this is just basketball," Kohler said. "We're just excited because we're having a lot of fun.
"You want to win," she added, "but our kids are making memories that will last them the rest of their lives. As a coach, you get a lot of satisfaction out of that."