ELIDA — First-year Lima Senior boys basketball coach Quincey Simpson wanted to send a message to his team.
After Lima Senior’s 69-59 win over Elida at the Elida Fieldhouse on Saturday night, it was quite evident the message got across.
The Spartans’ tenacious defensive pressure, coupled with a balanced scoring attack, helped pave the way for the victory.
Despite Elida’s Josh Press pouring in a game-high 32 points, including 10 3-pointers, Lima Senior’s defensive pressure limited Elida’s good looks at the basket.
Clark Etzler, who is usually all over the court gobbling up loose balls, got into early foul trouble and was limited in his playing time.
Rico Stafford led Lima Senior (3-2) with 19 points, 11 rebounds and four steals at the defensive end. Several of Stafford’s points came off steals, in which he finished off with thunderous slam dunks.
Jaylin Thomas scored 15 points. Xavier Simpson, who runs the Lima Senior offense out front, had 14 points, five rebounds and eight assists.
“We have been doing a lot of pressuring,” Coach Simpson said. “We’ve been trying to show them how we can win by pressuring the ball. It’s paying off. It’s a slow process. I think a lot of people expected it to happen overnight. I can see now that we have gotten a little bit better, defensively. So, I’m happy with that.
“We always emphasize that ‘X’ (Xavier Simpson) should not be leading us in scoring. He’s a pass-first point guard. In the last few games, he’s led us in scoring. So, that has let me know that my wings aren’t running hard.”
Press was the only Elida player to score in double figures. The 6-foot, 3-inch junior, was a perfect 5-of-5 shooting from behind the 3-point line in the third quarter. Press’ hot shooting helped cut a 37-22 halftime deficit to seven points, 50-43, at the 2:04 mark of the third stanza.
However, the Spartans led 54-43 by the third stop.
In the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs cut it to eight, 58-50, on a 3-pointer by Press. But, that would be as close as Elida would come the rest of the way.
Lima Senior’s pressure really hampered Elida. Etzler picked up his third foul late in the second quarter.
“That really hurt us,” Thompson said about Etzler’s early foul trouble. “He’s our energy. He’s our dribble penetrator. He has the ability to create some offense for us, but not when he had three (fouls). It really limits him. That was the factor for us in going down 15 by halftime.”
For the game, Lima Senior shot 42 percent from the field. Elida connected on 47 percent of its field goal attempts. However, the Bulldogs took 21 less shots than the Spartans.
For the game, Elida committed 18 turnovers. Lima Senior committed just nine miscues on the night.
The Spartans won the battle on the boards, 37-27. Elida’s Jazz Howell (6-4, Soph.) scored just two points, but pulled down 12 rebounds and blocked four shots. Austin Allemeier, Elida’s leading scorer, was held to just eight points.
With Etzler on the bench for a good portion of the game, Thompson gave Press the green light to shoot.
“I turned around to my coaching staff and I said, ‘I have to let him go’,” Thompson said about Press. “It was one of those nights. If you looked up in the dictionary about ‘being in the zone’, I think you would have a picture of him in there, tonight.”
Added Coach Simpson, “We changed our lineup a little bit. I had to send a message to Rico Stafford about his defensive effort. As you could see tonight, he got the message. He played an exceptional game; a fantastic game. But, you have to give credit to the kid over at Elida (Press). He shot lights out. But, I’m glad we came in here and got a win.”