LIMA — The halftime speech paid off.
After slipping out with a 33-30 lead by the halftime break, the Toledo Central Catholic coaching staff strongly encouraged its team to pick up the intensity.
The Fighting Irish responded, picking up the intensity at both ends of the floor and pulling away for a 68-47 Three Rivers Athletic Conference victory over Lima Senior in boys basketball Friday night.
Central Catholic’s defensive pressure helped cause 13 second-half Lima Senior turnovers. At the offensive end of the court, the Fighting Irish made 15-of-28 shots from the field in the final 16 minutes.
C.J. Bussey led TCC (15-2, 8-2 TRAC) with 18 points, including three 3-pointers. Deontae Cole poured in 13 points, including three shots behind the arc. Keith Towbidge, a 6-5 post player, scored 12 points, all inside the paint to lead the Fighting Irish. Towbridge will be playing football at the University of Louisville next fall. Cole will be playing basketball at Northern Kentucky next year.
Devon Allen led Lima Senior (7-11, 4-7 TRAC) with 17 points, including five 3-pointers. Rico Stafford chipped in with 10 points for the Spartans.
Central Catholic led 16-10 by the end of the first quarter.
In the second period, however, the Spartans opened with a 7-0 run to claim its first lead of the game. Central Catholic recovered to pull back out to the 3-point advantage by the break.
Central Catholic coach Jim Welling wasn’t particularly pleased with his team’s effort in the first half.
“In the first half, it was like 16-10 at one time and then all of a sudden we’re going back to our old ways,” Welling said. “We got soft on defense. We were not rebounding the ball. We were giving Lima some free looks. We just told them at halftime that the bottom line is that they’re going to sit down and play defense for 16 minutes.”
Central Catholic outscored Lima Senior 19-12 in the third period to take a 52-42 lead. In the fourth quarter, the Spartans turned the ball over nine times and were just 1-for-5 shooting from the floor.
For the game, Central Catholic shot 49 percent from the field, while Lima Senior shot 43 percent.
Lima Senior committed 18 turnovers, while Central Catholic turned the ball over just eight times.
“We weren’t tough enough,” Lima Senior coach Shawn Allen said. “We’ve played 18 games now. So we can’t use inexperience as an excuse anymore.”
The taller Central Catholic squad won the battle on the boards, 29-22.
“It was good to see Nate Harris (6-foot-6 post player, nine points) get back to playing like he is capable of. And Keith Towbridge (6-5, post) is a load inside,” Welling said. “So, when you have to contend with the both of them, it’s really difficult. It tends to wear on you.”
Added Allen, “We played well in the first half. In the second half, we didn’t step up to the next level of toughness to match their aggression.”