LIMA — A basketball game lasts 32 minutes for a reason as both Lima Central Catholic and visiting Crestview discovered Friday night at Monsignor E. C. Herr Gymnasium.
The T-Birds jumped out to an 18-point lead before the Knights staged a furious fourth quarter rally that fell just short as LCC prevailed 57-52 in Northwest Conference action.
LCC’s tough man-to-man defense caused the Knights fits early when the T-Birds forced 10 first-half turnovers and grabbed leads of 16-11 after one quarter and 36-22 going to the halftime break.
Tre’on Johnson led the T-Birds with 10 first-half points that included two 3-pointers while teammate Martyce Kimbrough continued his solid play of late with seven points in the first two quarters.
The T-Birds scored eight straight points late in the second period, which included baskets on three consecutive turnovers by the Knights, and their lead grew from 24-18 to 32-18.
“We felt like we would be O.K. in our halfcourt defense against them,” Crestview coach Jeremy Best said. “We knew we had to limit the athletic points they got but they caused turnovers, got tipped balls, loose balls and we were in a hole.”
The Knights (6-1, 1-1 NWC) were able to slow the game down in the third period as LCC outscored them 8-6 but got out of rhythm.
Crestview scored the first 11 points of the fourth quarter to get to within 44-39 as the T-Birds began to encounter turnover problems of their own.
The Knights got to within 46-42 with two minutes to play but LCC answered by hitting 11-of-14 from the free throw line in the final two minutes of play.
Kimbrough came up big for the T-Birds when he hit 9-of-10 from the line in those final two minutes and possibly solved LCC’s season long problem with free throw conversions.
“I was only hitting 55 percent from the line coming into this game so I knew it was something I had to work on,” Kimbrough said. “I practiced bending my knees and we shoot 100 free throws every practice and 50 on game days. We are a young team that has room to improve but we are getting better every day.”
Kimbrough led LCC (6-1, 3-0 NWC) with 16 points while Johnson totaled 15 and freshman Xavier Simpson ended the night with 10 for the T-Birds.
“We played really good the first 20 minutes of the game but then we quit what we were doing,” LCC coach Frank Kill said. “We didn’t adjust to the officiating and Crestview was aggressive going to the basket. Give them credit, Cam Etzler got them back into the game but Martyce wanted the ball and got to the line and made those free throws.”
Etzler had a game-high 19 points for the Knights and Damian Helm chipped in with 11 points that included 3-pointers in the fourth period.
“I’m proud of the kids and that comeback but you can’t get into that type of hole, especially against a good team like LCC,” Best said. “We need to play the entire 32 minutes.”
The Knights hit 16-of-41 from the floor for 39 percent to go along with 17-of-24 from the free line. LCC connected on 17-of-39 for 43 percent from the field and 20-of-26 from the free throw line.