LIMA — Everywhere Celina boys basketball coach Chris Bihn looked, he saw quickness.
Standing in a hallway outside his team’s locker room, he said that factor was far and away the biggest reason Lima Central Catholic hung a 77-62 loss on his team on Saturday night.
“They have to be the quickest team we’ve played this year,” Bihn said. “Their feet are quick. Their hands are quick. They put pretty good pressure on the ball. That was impressive how well they played defensively.”
Freshman guard Xavier Simpson had the biggest scoring night of his career with 23 points and Martyce Kimbrough scored 15 points for LCC.
Simpson hit 10 of 15 on field goals, including three 3-pointers. Kimbrough also had three 3-pointers.
Sophomore Ryan Hoying had 22 points, including five 3-pointers for Celina and Matt Buschur scored 17.
LCC (19-2) introduced Celina to that quickness and defensive pressure Bihn talked about early when it forced the Bulldogs into eight first-quarter turnovers and converted five of those mistakes into points.
Celina (9-12) hung with the Thunderbirds well into the second half, though. LCC was up only 48-44 after Branden Bilger got behind the defense for a breakaway layup with 5:55 left in the third quarter.
But the Thunderbirds went on a 23-7 run over the next eight minutes to put the game away.
“When you get pressure from our guards the way we do, it wears a lot of teams down,” LCC coach Frank Kill said. “But give credit to the Hoyng kid. He kept them in it with some of his big shots.”
The game was up-tempo from the start, which probably worked to LCC’s advantage.
“I think the transition game really benefitted us, that’s kind of the key to our success. We did a really good job of getting back and causing turnovers. There was a run there where they got some easy looks but we countered back and we made our own run with layups,” Kill said. “When we get turnovers that lead to layups, good things are going to happen.”
Bihn said, “That’s huge any time you start out that deep in the hole but it took us a little while to get adjusted to their athleticism and quickness.
Simpson “just played real confident tonight,” Kill said. “He got off to a good start. When he’s comfortable he’s going to be very confident with his shot selection. He distributes the ball well. I think we had 19 post entries tonight. We didn’t score a lot in the post but that opened up some other things. Most of that was led by Xavier Simpson.”
Bihn said Simpson’s offensive production was beyond what Celina expected.
“I knew he could shot the ball but I didn’t think he would shoot it nearly that well,” he said.
LCC shot 51 percent (32 of 63) on field goals, forced 22 turnovers and had a 31-15 rebounding edge. Celina shot 53 percent (24 of 45).