COLUMBUS — A year ago, Ethan O’Connor was voted the “Glue Guy” on Lima Central Catholic’s boys basketball team for doing the sorts of things that might not show up in the box score.
The award hasn’t been handed out this year, but the 6-foot, 3-inch senior did all the same things and more again, which is one of the reasons another state championship stuck to LCC this season.
O’Connor – who averaged 6.5 points and 5 rebounds this season — scored 11 points and had four rebounds, two assists and a steal in the Thunderbirds’ 66-44 win over Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph in the Division III boys basketball state championship game on Saturday.
Two days earlier he had 12 points and three rebounds in a 74-56 state semifinal win over Cincinnati Roger Bacon.
Against Villa Angela-St. Joseph he hit a short jumper, then connected on a 3-pointer to help start the 30-7 LCC run in the third and fourth quarters that turned the championship game into a blowout.
“He’s a guy who does the dirty work most people don’t appreciate. If you’ve been around the program long enough you know he’s a gritty kid, he’s a hard nosed kid. He plays super hard and comes up with some big shots at the most unexpected times,” LCC coach Frank Kill said.
“He’s a guy who has a lot of leadership skills when needed. He hit a big three for us there (on Saturday). He will just do anything you ask him to do,” he said.
O’Connor, his brothers Tyler and Aidan, and their dad, Mike, have seven state championships among them.
Tyler was a sophomore starter and a key player on LCC’s 2010 state champion team. Aidan was on the 2014 state champion team, Ethan has been on the last two LCC state winners and their dad has been an assistant coach on all three of them.
“I guess you could say we’ve always played pretty well in Columbus,” Ethan O’Connor said.
O’Connor was usually the first player off the bench on LCC’s 2015 state runner-up team. This season he moved into the starting spot Jake Williams had as a senior last year, where he often battled taller players.
“Last year I got voted “Glue Guy.” We didn’t do that this year but “Glue Guy” is basically the guy who doesn’t get on the stat sheet but brings the team together. I take pride in bringing the team together,” he said. “If there’s a break in the game, I point out who everybody is guarding. If there is a run, I get everybody calm.”
Like some of his teammates, O’Connor says the only loss in their 28-1 season, 54-52 to Lima Senior on Jan. 26, was a turning point that made them intensify their efforts to win a second state title in three years.
“That was our first loss of the season, it was our only loss of the season. It definitely opened our eyes that we needed to get better,” he said. “Prior to that game, we played to our opponents. Since that game, we played to our potential, especially during the tournament.”
That potential probably was never displayed more than when LCC turned a 27-26 halftime lead into a 24-point lead at 57-33 in the first 12 ½ minutes of the second half.
“It’s incredible. We played so well in the second half. It was a great way to end our senior year,” O’Connor said.