AKRON — Lima Senior’s boys basketball team made a habit of wearing teams down with its depth this season, but the roles were reversed when Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary beat the Spartans 79-63 in the Division I regional championship game at the University of Akron on Saturday night.
St. Vincent-St. Mary has four starters who average in double figures and brought four more players off the bench for between 10 and 18 minutes in the game.
And as usual with St. Vincent-St. Mary, which has won eight state championships, those starters and subs all were talented and athletic.
“They roll bodies off the bench but those bodies can play. You play teams that might go eight or nine deep but with this team 8, 9 and 10 could be 2, 3 and 4 on any other team in the state for the most part,” Lima Senior coach Quincey Simpson said.
“That was a tough one. I thought the most aggressive team won. We had a lot of costly turnovers, we didn’t get 50-50 balls. They were just quicker on every loose ball,” Simpson said.
“You have to tip your hat to them because they were more aggressive than we were. We made some tremendous plays getting it out in transition early but they beat us up on the glass. We gave up a lot of second opportunities and at this juncture in the season if you do that you probably won’t win,” he said.
Josiah Fulcher scored 21 points to lead Lima Senior (22-5), which got to within one game of reaching the state tournament for the first time since the 2016 team was Division I state runner-up. Jadakis Mack had 12 points and Jamir Simpson had 11 points and 8 rebounds.
Keyshawn Jones scored 16 points and Seth Wilson and Lunden McDay each had 15 points for St. Vincent-St. Mary (23-3). Marcus Johnson scored 12 points and grabbed 9 rebounds to lead the Irish to a 37-25 rebounding edge.
St. Vincent-St. Mary shot 56 percent on field goals (30 of 54). Lima Senior hit 41 percent on field goals (24 of 58).
“We’ve shot the ball really well all year but we didn’t tonight. Unfortunately for us, the ball just didn’t go in for us tonight,” Simpson said. “They got into the teeth of our defense and when we slid over they made the right play. And it took a lot out of us.”
Lima Senior led much of the first quarter before the Irish pulled into a 16-16 tie at the end of the quarter. By halftime, St. Vincent-St. Mary led 35-26.
Lima Senior cut the lead to six points, 50-44, on a 3-pointer by Fulcher with 2:20 left in the third quarter but St. Vincent-St. Mary got the lead out to 11 points, 57-46, by the end of the third quarter and was up by as many as 20 points with four minutes left in the game.
The Irish have been state champions the last two years and are going to the state tournament for the fourth year in a row. They have won 11 district championships in a row.
Maybe because he doesn’t get to do it too often, St. Vincent-St. Mary coach Dru Joyce played the underdog card in his team’s first year in Division I.
“We’re very thankful. Not too many teams get to play in the Final Four four years in a row. I think it’s 11 times in my 18 years. We don’t take it for granted,” Joyce said.
“Everyone thought moving up to Division I would be something that was too difficult for us. Everyone was saying someone else was going to come out of this area,” he said. “We’re not just going there. There’s only one reason you ever go. That’s to win it.”
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.