COLUMBUS – No fear. No hesitation. No ancient hexes rising up through the floor at the Value City Arena.
Lima Central Catholic won its second Division III boys basketball state championship in the last five seasons when it beat last year’s Division IV state champion Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph 64-62 on Saturday.
Martyce Kimbrough scored 22 points, Xavier Simpson had 18 points and Jake Williams scored 12 points and tied Dantez Walton for the team high in rebounds with seven to lead LCC (25-4).
Villa Angela-St. Joseph (22-8) came into the game with big players, like 6-foot, 10-inch Carlton Bragg and 6-foot, 8-inch Dererk Pardon, and a big reputation.
But LCC took the lead early behind 18 first-half points by Kimbrough and was never behind in the game.
The Thunderbirds were both impressive and unimpressed.
“We just basically didn’t care about their background and said we were going to come out as a team and beat them as a team,” Simpson said.
Kimbrough said, “We knew they were a good team but we knew we were a good team as well and any team can be beat.”
LCC coach Frank Kill said, “I don’t see this as an upset.”
To the Thunderbirds, all that mattered was that another state champion’s trophy, to go with the 2010 state trophy, will be seen in LCC’s trophy case.
LCC led 20-14 after one quarter, was up 34-25 at halftime and had an eight-point lead, 49-41, after three quarters.
Kimbrough hit 7 of 9 shots in the first half, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range. He scored eight points in the game’s first 2 ½ minutes.
“Martyce Kimbrough carried us for 16 minutes, hitting big shot after big shot,” Kill said. “And in the second half, Xavier stepped up.”
Kimbrough said, “I shoot every shot thinking it is going to go in. Once I made some shots, my teammates kept looking for me and giving me the ball.”
But Villa Angela-St. Joseph came all the way back to tie the game 51-51. At moments like this, the Vikings have broken down many teams. But LCC didn’t go away.
After the 51-51 tie, Cory Stewart answered with a 10-footer and Simpson drove for a score to make it 55-51.
LCC led the rest of the way, but made the game a little more interesting that it could have been by making only 12 of 26 free throws in the second half.
For veteran LCC watchers, this brought back memories of five losses by either one or two points in state tournaments in 1989, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 2000. But, like 2010, this time it was different.
When VASJ limited Kimbrough to four points, all on free throws, in the second half, Simpson stepped up and got 16 of his 18 points in the final two quarters.
Maybe none of those points were bigger than the bucket he got on a driving floater that put the Thunderbirds up 59-55 with 1:15 to play.
“I’m not a big fan of the floater but I loved it today,” Kill said.
After Villa Angela-St. Joseph cut the lead to 59-57, LCC got free throws from Kimbrough and Simpson to go in front 62-57 with 19 seconds to play. A pair of free throws by VASJ’s Brian Parker reduced the lead to three, and after a free throw by Kimbrough, Braggs threw in a 3-pointer to make it 63-62 with four seconds on the clock.
Then it got really interesting. The Vikings called timeout and fouled Jake Williams before LCC could even get the ball in bounds.
He missed both shots, but grabbed his own rebound, put up a shot and had it blocked. But the ball went backward to Cobbs, who caught it and was fouled. He hit one of two free throws for a 64-62 lead with 1.7 seconds on the clock.
When he missed, the only shot VASJ had time for was a 60-foot heave by Parker.
Villa Angela-St. Joseph coach Babe Kwasniak said, “At no point did I think we were going to lose that game. This team has always found a way to win games like that but it didn’t happen. They played better than we did.”
LCC’s guard play stood out for Kwasniak. “For a while they looked like Scoonie Penn and Earl Boykins,” he said about Kimbrough and Simpson.
“Man, he (Kimbrough) made some shots. A couple of the shots he made are the ones you want him to take. And a couple of those floaters…”
The other big factor in Kwasniak’s mind was that his big men allowed too many offensive rebounds by LCC. “Nine offensive rebounds is definitely a lot,” he said.
LCC, the only Lima school to win a boys state basketball championship, added trophy No. 2 with a team with only one senior, Kimbrough, in its starting lineup.
LCC 64, Villa Angela St. Joseph 62
Xavier Simpson 18, Martyce Kimbrough 22, Tre Cobbs 3, Dantez Walton 4, Jake Williams 12, Ethan O’Connor 1, Cory Stewart 4. Totals: 23-14-64.
Brian Parker 15, Derek Pardon 17, Maurice Johnson 2, Simon Texidor 5, Carlton Bragg 23. Totals: 23-14-62..
Score by quarters:
Three-point goals: LCC—Kimbrough 4; VASJ —Texidor 1, Bragg 1.
Records: LCC 25-4; VASJ 22-8.