LIMA — The trip to the state tournament had been secured with a 68-61 win over Canton McKinley in the regional championship, and the nets had been cut down last Saturday night when Lima Senior coach Quincey Simpson looked back at the journey that had gotten the Spartans to this point.
“Everybody stepped up and had a part in this,” he said.
Earlier on the tournament trail, he had pointed to defensive specialist Demontay Liles as an example of how players had made contributions that don’t necessarily show up in the boxscore or that go unnoticed outside the basketball program.
Liles played less than a minute against Canton McKinley and was on the floor for 10 minutes in a regional semifinal win over Lorain. But his fulltime assignment during practice all season has been to take on All-Ohio point guard Xavier Simpson.
“Demontay guards him every day in practice,” Quincey Simpson said. “He takes it personally, and he takes it as a challenge.
“It makes Demontay a better defender because he’s guarding the best player in the state, and it makes Xavier a better player because he’s going against one of the better defensive players in the state,” he said.
Liles said, “Guarding Xavier and staying in front of him is hard. He’s so crafty and everything. My defense is very good, and his offense is very good. We go at each other, man. We compete every day and always try to get better.”
Xavier Simpson said, “Me and Demontay go at it all the time. We go at it, talking trash, getting in each other’s ear. We frustrate each other. He plays great defense. When we put him on the other team’s best player, it’s like he’s used to it or he’s over-prepared.”
No. 2 Lima Senior (28-0) will play No. 3 Wilmington (27-1) at 5:15 p.m. Friday in a Division I state tournament semifinal at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center.
Quincey Simpson says that trip to the state tournament can do good things for his team and for Lima.
“Our kids deal with a lot, and I don’t think people understand that. Our kids have a lot of things on their shoulders that they have to deal with on a regular basis. It’s great for them, it’s terrific for their families. It’s terrific for Lima.
“This is going to bring some positive energy into our community. This is exactly what we need,” he said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.