LIMA - By halftime of Lima Central Catholic’s 55-38 boys basketball win over Versailles on Saturday night it was obvious the Thunderbirds were in a better place than they’d been a night earlier when they suffered their first loss of the season at Crestview.
A look at the scoreboard delivered that message. But so did the defensive statistics.
Creating turnovers, getting the game moving up and down the floor and producing points with defense is one of the foundations of LCC’s style.
The 13 turnovers LCC produced by halftime against Versailles equaled the number it got in four quarters in a 66-54 loss to Crestview on Friday night.
With the help of those early turnovers, LCC went up 24-19 at halftime and gradually wore down Versailles, which lost for the first time after nine wins to open the season.
Tre Cobbs and Martyce Kimbrough scored 14 points each for LCC. Evan Philpot had 14 points for Versailles.
“There was much better intensity tonight,” Lima Central Catholic coach Frank Kill said after his team held Versailles to 39 percent shooting (14 of 36) and forced 18 turnovers.
“I thought our halfcourt defense was just phenomenal for 32 minutes. We played strong, we played disciplined. That’s exactly what you want to see out of a team coming off a bad loss,” he said.
The first three minutes of the game weren’t exactly what LCC was looking for when Versailles jumped out to a 7-0 lead and the Thunderbirds turned the ball over on three of their first four possessions.
But defense leveled the playing field and eventually tilted it in the Thunderbirds’ direction.
Versailles scored all four times it was able to get the ball to the basket in the first quarter, but it turned the ball over on its other seven first-quarter possessions.
The Tigers didn’t miss a shot until almost two minutes into the second quarter and it wasn’t until Ethan O’Connor scored on an offensive rebound, was fouled and hit the free throw to make it 16-13 at the 5:51 mark of the second quarter that LCC took its first lead.
Once it took the lead, it never gave it back. Versailles scored the first bucket of the second half to get within three points but never got any closer.
It was the second night in a row the Thunderbirds played a state-ranked team.
LCC (10-1) was ranked No. 3 in Division III in last week’s Associated Press poll. Versailles was No. 4 in Division III and Crestview was No. 2 in Division IV.
“We know our potential. In 24 hours we turned it around and we lived up to our potential,” Kill said.
“It all starts with defense, fundamental defense. We were playing well tonight, we were playing smart. We were jumping the passing lanes, we were getting in front of people instead of reaching and we did a great job of denying the post early and forcing them to take shots outside,” he said.
Cobbs’ scoring made him “a wild card” offensively, Kill said.
“Tre Cobbs was that wild card because he attacked their zone early and often. He sliced and diced his way to basket and was able to get to the rim and finished strong. He’s going to get to the basket. I thought his defensive pressure was as good as anything,” he said.