LIMA — Lima Senior’s Division I boys basketball state semifinal game against Wilmington at 5:15 p.m. on Friday will have the star power that some people say has been missing from many recent state tournaments.
The two standout players in that game, Lima Senior’s Xavier Simpson and Wilmington’s Jarron Cumberland, will be very familiar with each other after being teammates last summer on the King James AAU team, coached by the Spartans’ head coach Quincey Simpson.
Simpson, a Michigan recruit, is averaging 27.2 points a game. Cumberland, a University of Cincinnati recruit, is averaging 30.4 points a game.
Quincey Simpson called Cumberland, a 6-5 senior forward, “the best scorer in the state.”
“He has been the best scorer in the state the last two years. His confidence is extremely high at all times. We had a great AAU team before he came, but with him we went from great to elite. He was definitely a difference maker,” he said.
“He’s big, strong and can shoot it from anywhere. He can dribble; he can finish around the rim. We’re going to have our hands full with Jarron Cumberland.”
Wilmington coach Mike Noszka says containing Xavier Simpson at point guard will be a big part of his team’s game plan.
“Our No. 1 priority on defense is to stop the ball. When Simpson has the ball in his hands, that challenge rises and the priority is even more important,” Noszka said.
“You’re not going to take the ball off Xavier Simpson. But you have to get him stopped and get him contained. You can’t let him get into the heart of your defense and wreak havoc on it, or you’re in for a long night.”
No. 2-ranked Lima Senior (28-0) and No.3 Wilmington (27-1) obviously did not get to the state tournament as one-man shows.
Guard Cameron Stewart averages 10.3 points a game. Sophomore point guard Dylan Beaugard (8.0 points a game) is being recruited by NCAA Division I schools, according to Noszka, and 6-6 forward Chris Wolary averages 7.2 points a game.
Starting forward Alex Miller injured his elbow in a 48-28 regional championship game win over Centerville, and Noszka said Monday he did not know if he would be available Friday.
Lima Senior got to Columbus this year after falling 50-42 in the regional championship game last season against Lakewood St. Edward. Wilmington also has a history of postseason frustration.
The last three seasons before this one, Wilmington’s season ended with losses in district championship games against Cincinnati Moeller last season, Middletown in 2014 and Kettering Alter in 2013.
“We never looked at it like we had to break through that (the district championship game level),” Noszka said. “We never looked at it like, ‘We have to get past this game.’ We beat (2015 state champion) Wayne during the regular season last year, so we don’t blink at any opponent we’re playing.”
Lima Senior got a huge game from Rico Stafford (23 points, 11 of 12 on field goals) in a 68-61 win over Canton McKinley in last Saturday night’s regional championship win at the University of Akron.
Marquevious Wilson delivered three timely 3-pointers, and Ruben Flowers had 10 points and nine rebounds.
Xavier Simpson averaged 30.2 points a game during the regular season but has averaged 16.5 points a game in six tournament games, so balanced scoring is something Lima Senior has needed.
Wilson averages 10.9 points a game. Jarius Ward (10.5), Stafford (8.7), Jaylin Thomas (8.6) and Flowers (7.0) are the Spartans’ other top scorers.
“I don’t know that they (opposing defenses) have done anything different,” Quincey Simpson said about Xavier Simpson’s scoring statistics. “Teams kind of want to get the ball out of his hands. But we understood his scoring was going to drop in the tournament. The tournament is more of a defensive, possession game vs. a transition scoring game.”
This will be Lima Senior’s first boys state basketball tournament appearance since 1992 and its fifth overall (1962, 1968, 1982, 1992, 2016). Wilmington’s only other trip to state was in 1927, when the state tournament included eight teams.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.