Joseph Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)
WALLINGFORD — The doubts would creep in, because his base was off. What seems natural comes in time, Springfield (Delco.) 6-foot-2 senior Mike O’Donnell realizes each sports year he makes the transition from football to basketball.
So, as the Cougars struggled to a bitter 0-3 start, O’Donnell struggled along with them, looking to find his hoop legs and his shot once more.
Mike O'Donnell (above, earlier this month) had a season-high 18 points against Strath Haven on Tuesday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Maybe a portent that his search is over came on Tuesday night, when he led visiting Springfield with a season-high 18 points in the Cougars’ 52-42 victory over Strath Haven in a Central League game.
The Cougars have now won three of their last four, improving to 3-4 overall and 2-2 in the Central League, while Strath Haven, led by sophomore Jahi Curtis’ 18 off the bench, fell to 5-2 and 2-2 in the league.
“Being a multi-sport athlete, I would say my primary sport is basketball, but I don’t really have a favorite,” O’Donnell said. “The 18 tonight is my best game by far. This game will definitely get us some momentum going into the Central League games. I think this was my most aggressive game scoring wise, and hopefully this sets the tone for the rest of the season moving on.”
The issue was getting his endurance back.
“It’s not so much the conditioning that’s the hard part, it’s the little things like dribbling a basketball again and fitting into the offense and making it ring smoothly,” O’Donnell said. “In the offseason, I’m in the gym getting shots off, even during football season. But running five-on-five, it takes some time getting back into it from football season. It’s about getting used to it.
“In our offense, everyone is able to shoot. Our mindset being aggressive and looking to shoot is something that will help us moving forward. I think I found my shot tonight. I would say that it definitely gets me back into it.”
Overall, this was a nice dose of confidence for longtime Springfield coach Kevin McCormick’s team.
After losing to Harriton last week, blowing a 10-point lead, the Cougars weren’t about to squander a double-digit lead again.
“Mike wasn’t confident in his shot up until this point, or he wouldn’t flash as hard to the ball,” said McCormick, who’s in his 29th year. “He had a couple of flashes through the middle of the defense and that’s the first time he’s done that this year.
O'Donnell (above, against Harriton) plays multiple sports, as does much of the Springfield roster. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“He really showed hard to the ball. When he sees the ball go through the net, that starts it and keeps the dominos going. This was good. We tried to play an improved schedule, and it was a mistake on my part and we scheduled hard early—then opening with Radnor in league play. We played them tough, without Mike O’Donnell’s shooting stroke, without Aiden Kreydt’s basketball legs, without Ryan Johnston’s banging inside.
“Those three are critical to us and they were coming off the football field.”
Springfield led from start to finish against Strath Haven. The game was tied once, 11-11, then the Panthers went 6 minutes, 35 seconds without scoring a basket. Their one lone point during that stretch was a James Fisher free throw.
By halftime, Springfield held a commanding 31-14 lead, on 12 of 23 shooting, while Strath Haven struggled, making just 4 of 16 from the floor. If not for Curtis, it could have been worse.
“I think we learned Jahi Curtis had a coming out, he had a great game playing under control tonight, but we learned we didn’t have a great practice on Monday and we can’t turn the switch on and off,” Strath Haven coach Chris Conlan said. “We have to bring it every night in practice and every night in games. Every night in this league is a war. Our previous three games before this were decided by a combined five points.
“We’ve been preaching to these guys that every night is a war. We’ve been trying to duplicate that in practice and we didn’t Monday night. As a whole program, me included, we didn’t do that in practice and it caught up to us. Kevin is a great coach and they run their offense well. O’Donnell had a great game, but the way they run their offense, we had a tough time keeping up.”
Strath Haven got within 31-24 in the third quarter, and Springfield’s Colin Treude ended that with a five-point stretch that got the Cougars back into a double-digit edge.
“We have to share the ball better on offense and we had a lot of guys who are great at getting downhill, and we need to make the next pass and we didn’t,” Conlan said. “Curtis is going to get more time. If he earns it, he’s going to keep playing.”
As for Springfield, McCormick saw a composed team that will be more proactive when it comes to maintaining double-figure leads.
“This is a fun team that I think will just keep getting better as the season goes on,” McCormick said.
Springfield (Delco.): 11 | 20 | 5 | 16 || 52
Strath Haven: 8 | 6 | 12 | 16 || 42
Springfield: Mike O’Donnell 18, Luke Biancaniello 11, Michael Hoey 8, Ryan Johnston 6, Colin Treude 5, Pat Flaherty 3, Luke Valerio 1.
Strath Haven: Jahi Curtis 18, Jaden Jauregui 9, Jack Edwards 8, Matt Jones 4, Chris Coughlan 2, James Fisher 1.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who began writing for CoBL in 2021 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here.
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