COLUMBUS — The body language during the trophy presentation said it all about Westerville South’s 57-55 win over Lima Senior in the Division I boys basketball state championship game on Saturday night.
After Lima Senior coach Quincey Simpson accepted the state runner-up trophy, none of the Spartans made a move to touch the silver trophy.
But a few minutes later when Westerville South accepted the winner’s gold trophy, every hand on the Wildcats’ roster seemed to be reaching out to touch their prized possession.
Lima Senior (29-1) came so close to finishing off a perfect season with a state championship.
But in a game that became closely contested for the final 16 minutes after Westerville South broke out to a big early lead, the Wildcats made one more play than the Spartans.
Jordan Humphrey’s floater in the lane with 2.3 seconds left in the game gave Westerville South (26-5) the state championship a year after it finished runner-up to Huber Heights Wayne in last year’s D-I championship game.
The Spartans called a timeout with 1.8 seconds left on the clock after Humphrey’s shot, but Xavier Simpson’s shot from just inside the midcourt line hit high off the backboard as time ran out.
Humphrey led Westerville South with 19 points, 14 of them in the first half. Simpson’s 17 points led Lima Senior. Ruben Flowers scored 12 points and Rico Stafford had 10 points.
“It’s tough,” Quincey Simpson said. “There’s some studs over there. They’re very well coached. We gave it all we’ve got. I thought all my guys laid it on the line.
Humphrey described the game-winning shot this way: “It was what I’ve worked on all year and was doing all game – just attack and get the ball to the rim. Time was running down. Somebody had to score. It was a tie game and I just happened to be in position.”
Lima Senior never led after the opening minutes of the game and was behind by as many as five points in the fourth quarter before tying the game at 55-55 on a bucket by Stafford with an assist from Simpson with 25 seconds to play.
Westerville went out to big leads twice early in the game before Lima Senior battled back.
The Wildcats ran out to a 14-5 lead in the game’s first 4 ½ minutes and run was the operative word in an extremely fast-paced start.
Lima Senior cut that lead to four points, but Westerville South built an even bigger advantage when it went up 24-12 with 6:19 left in the first half.
Turnovers were costly, especially early, for Lima Senior. Westerville South got 15 of its 31 first-half points after Lima Senior turnovers.
“Early they got some good transition opportunities but I think we limited those guys in the second half. Bascially, we were just getting the nervousness out of our system,” Quincey Simpson said.
“But we erased the first half and put ourselves in position to win but we came up short,” he said.
Lima Senior shot the ball better than Westerville South, 56 percent to 46 percent, outrebounded the Wildcats 27-19 and blocked seven shots. The Spartans’ defensive pressure might not have been as productive as usual, though, producing only seven Westerville turnovers.
Westerville South coach Ed Calo said he could probably imagine some of what Lima Senior was feeling after coming so close to a state championship because of seeing how hard it hit his team after its loss in the title game a year ago.
“Wow. Last year was so difficult. We really struggled with it for a while. We came so close. It was quite a difference from tonight,” he said.
“My heart goes out to Lima Senior. They had a phenomenal team and a great season. I know how they feel.
“It’s very difficult but they have to be very proud of what they accomplished this year. There was very little difference, if any difference between the two squads. We just happened to have the ball last,” he said.
Welcome home: Lima Senior has scheduled a welcome home ceremony for its boys basketball team at 6 p.m. today in the high school gym.
Anthem singer: Courtney McLaughlin, of Bluffton, sang the national anthem before the Division I championship game.
All tourney team: Humphrey was named the most outstanding player of the Associated Press Division I all-tournament team.
The senior guard led all scorers with 19 points in the 57-55 title victory over Lima Senior. He scored 25 points in a semifinal win over Garfield Heights one night earlier.
Joining him on the all-tournament team was fellow Wildcat Andre Wesson, Simpson, Garfield Heights senior forward Braun Hartfield (27 points, 16 rebounds in one game) and Wilmington senior guard Jarron Cumberland (25 points, nine rebounds in one game).
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.