Springwood previews the rest of their season at media day

Published 7:21 pm Wednesday, November 8, 2023

The Springwood Wildcats took the stand at media day as the only team to have already tipped off their season. 

Springwood’s girls and boys basketball teams opened up their seasons with each team getting a dominant win on the road against Oaks. On Wednesday, both teams attended media day to preview the rest of their season. 

Lisa Sampson serves as the coach for both teams. Sampson believes that there are differences when coaching each team, but she has become adept at handling those differences. 

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“I’m going into my fifth season of doing this,” Sampson said. “Are they different? Absolutely. I have two sons. Coaching on the boys side is a little more natural. I can be a little tougher on them most of the time, and they react well to it. My girls, a lot of energy, they’re always excited to be in the gym.” 

The boys team defeated Oaks 87-65 on Tuesday, but several key players were not in uniform for the season opener. 

Springwood’s football team is facing Southern Prep in the Semifinals this Thursday, and many of the basketball players are still finishing up their seasons on the gridiron. 

“It’s tough because we have probably six football players that are not with us yet,” Sampson said. “We played last night and was really thrilled with the guys and where we are right now from a chemistry standpoint.”
Both teams have several new additions that are going to be counted on as key players this season.

Shalexia Little transferred from LaFayette and will be asked to be a contributor for the Lady Wildcats this season. Greg and CJ Johnson are transfers from Opelika that are going to be crucial this season. The Wildcats also Panos Pananis as an international student. Pananis poured in 12 points in the season opener. 

“She’s like she’s been here for years,” Sampson said about Little. “They’re just energized.” 

Daniel Westbrook poured in 34 points for Springwood in the season opener. Westbrook’s brother, Eli Westbrook, was one of the better athletes to come through the program. Eli is currently on the swim team at Eastern Illinois. 

Just like his brother, Daniel is going to be a high-level scorer for the Wildcats this season as he works to carve out his own legacy in his senior season. 

“I learned a lot from Eli,” Daniel Westbrook said. “We’ve been playing together our whole lives. Along the way, he’s really laid out for me what I need to do to make everybody better and become a leader. I just want to sort of play my own game, but also make everybody better.” 

Micah Thomas added 19 points in the season opener, and he is considered to be one of the “quiet” leaders on the team. Thomas is the starting point guard and he often serves as the facilitator of the entire offense. 

“At the beginning of the game, I can come out and hit shots,” Thomas said. “If I wasn’t hitting, I can distribute the ball and find my open teammates.” 

Pananis enrolled in Springwood’s international school over the summer, and he has experience playing at the club level in Germany. Pananis adds another scoring option for the Wildcats, and he helps to take the pressure off of Thomas as a facilitator. 

“Yesterday the game was pretty tough,” Pananis said. “What I noticed from the beginning was that they played way more aggressively than in Europe. They were hustling for every rebound. The whole environment was different. It was a crazy atmosphere and a nice experience.” 

The Wildcats made it to the final four last season, and the boys team hopes to make it even further this season as they look to bring Springwood a state championship. 

“Last year, we made it to the final four,” Sampson said. “This year, our goal is to make it to the finals. The guys expect and want to win a state championship.”