COLUMBUS — Lima Central Catholic didn’t have to play the perfect game.
It just had to play harder and dive for every loose ball and crazy-bounce rebound.
The T-Birds did that and a lot more.
Plenty of hustle and desire are the reasons LCC is the Division III boys basketball state champion.
LCC (25-4) knocked off the mighty defending Division IV state champion Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph 64-62 in the Division III state title game Saturday afternoon at Ohio State’s Value City Arena.
VASJ rolled in with all the athletic ability a prep team could have. It also had more size than many small college teams with 6-foot-10 Carlton Bragg and 6-8 Dererk Pardon.
If that wasn’t enough, the Vikings had point guard Brian Parker, who had an electric first step and the uncanny ability to take the ball to the rim.
But here’s what the crowd of 9,908 at the Value City Arena learned on Saturday: Heart, passion and desire can defeat a superior athletic team.
Bragg had the size, leaping ability and quickness to dominate the game.
But he didn’t. Not even close.
Sure, Bragg had 23 points, but the big guy got only had THREE rebounds.
Why was that?
Because he was completely outplayed, outhustled, outrebounded and outworked by the LCC front line of 6-2 Jake Williams, 6-4 Dantez Walton and 6-4 Cory Stewart off the bench.
In fact, Williams displayed a huge heart and was off the charts with his passion and desire. He did this, not just on a few plays, but on every play.
Williams kicked every ounce of Bragg’s athletic talent back to the shores of Lake Erie.
To me, Williams was the X factor. He was the difference.
Williams finished with 12 points and seven rebounds. He was 5 of 6 from the field from down low.
“It came down to footwork and heart,” Williams said.
Walton chipped in with four points and seven rebounds. Stewart had four points.
And with the LCC big guys doing their best to neutralize Bragg and Pardon (17 points, 15 rebounds), it allowed the LCC guards to fly around the court at their usual 120 mph speed.
Martyce Kimbrough, the tourney’s most valuable player, hit 7 of 11 from the field and was 4 of 7 on 3-pointers. He found his shooting zone early and finished with a game-high 22 points.
Xavier Simpson continually hit a jet stream past his man and either would hit a quick pull-up jumper, or loft one of his floaters in the lane. Simpson had 18 points, with eight coming in the final quarter.
“I’m not a big fan of the floater, but I was today,” LCC coach Frank Kill said with a laugh.
For Kill, it marked 17 years to the day that he was the tourney MVP on the 1997 27-0 Lincolnview team that won the Division IV state title. Kill was also an assistant coach to former LCC coach Bob Seggerson when the T-Birds won the state championship in 2010.
“I told Martyce (Kimbrough) that we have something in common on March 22nd,” Kill said. “We both became state champions and I believe he was the MVP. This is a special day.
“You can’t describe these feelings and hopefully 17 years from now Martyce can do the same thing at 35 and maybe take a group of kids and win a state title. High school basketball in the state tournament is what you play for. That’s the way I grew up. It’s a dream come true and for me to help these young men to help accomplish that goal, that’s pretty special.”
Knights roll to 29-0 season
Crestview had a balanced attack, played great defense and really displayed no weakness.
That’s what helped the Knights to a 29-0 season and the Division IV state title on Saturday with a 71-44 victory over Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas.
As usual, Crestview had four players score in double figures, while Damian Helm getting 20 points and Tyson Bolenbaugh scored 18. Connor Lautzenheiser scored 11, while Preston Zaleski had 10. Cam Etzler had five points and four assists.
But my biggest memory of the Knights in the state title game won’t be on the offensive side.
It will be the 6-4 Helm holding Aquinas leading scorer Austin Hill (17-point average) to six points. Helm smothered and frustrated Hill and made it nearly impossible for him to even get off a shot.
And that’s exactly what state champions do.