There’s a little bit of a chuckle from Kevin McCormick when he says his team has had “a unique year”.
It’s about the only way to describe a season which has featured losses to Cardinal O’Hara and Strath Haven (teams with nine combined wins) yet also wins at Lower Merion and over Penncrest and Ridley.
Perhaps the most unique part, then, is that a team that has overcome such speed bumps has a chance to continue on to the postseason as the No. 20 Cougars do. And the payoff for all those struggles it that the Cougars are red hot entering the playoffs.
Winners of six straight, Springfield gets a trip to No. 13 West Chester Henderson (15-7) Friday night, their confidence running high.
“We went in with big expectations, and we hit a couple of bumps in the road in December,” McCormick said. “It was all about learning how to deal with mistakes and just toughness.”
Much of that has manifested itself on the defensive end, where the Cougars haven’t allowed more than 53 points in a regulation game since the turn of the New Year.
The Cougars have also done a better job defining their roles. Kevin McCormick and Jordan Collins remain the primary scoring threats, but they’ve gotten more help, including increased production from Dan Wasson. McCormick has also developed that late-season intensity that many seniors get when they start to sense the light at the end of the tunnel.
“He looks like he doesn’t want it to end,” McCormick Sr. said. “That mentality, that sense of desperation, it’s a good thing when he’s using it to fuel his offensive firepower.”
The elder McCormick is also impressed with the progress made by Quideer Wimes, who came off a long football season and hit a mid-year lull in effectiveness. He’s been in double-figures in each of the last two games, and the Cougars are 6-1 in games where he scores in double figures.
The backcourt rotation has also settled in nicely, with Matt Conran and Kyle Long splitting point guard duties. Long, a freshman, has really matured, often playing the role of closer at the point in the fourth quarters of games.
In the first round, the Cougars get a Henderson team that is similar to themselves. They both are perimeter-oriented, with several players who can knock down the 3. 6-2 swingman Colin Costello offers a similarly hard-nosed, workmanlike game as McCormick, while explosive 6-0 Jason Bady is similar to Collins in that he plays the game of a taller person. Henderson doesn’t present any height mismatches, their backcourt of Brian Armstrong and Tyler Ramirez standing 5-10 each, while Andy Vermeil is their primary post presence at 6-2, the same height as guard Wes Smith.
It presents an opportunity for the 6-5 Wimes to dictate in the post, but beyond that, McCormick Sr. sees the game as a battle of execution between two teams operating similar schemes. With the way his team is playing, it’s a deal McCormick will gladly sign for.