ELIDA — Lima Central Catholic looked like it was shot out of a cannon.
The T-Birds started strong and then held off a very pesky Bluffton squad for a 60-44 victory in a boys Division III sectional title game Friday night at the Elida Fieldhouse.
Lima Central Catholic (15-9) will play Thursday, March 5th in a district semifinal against Wayne Trace (17-6) at Lima Senior High School. Tip-off for that district semifinal will be around 8 p.m.
In Friday’s first sectional final at the Elida Fieldhouse, Wayne Trace led from start to finish, in a 60-43 win over Fairview.
In the nightcap, Biggz Johnson led LCC with 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Michael Jay Riepenhoff scored 15 points and pulled down seven rebounds. Shaun Thomas and Rossy Moore each had eight points for the T-Birds.
Jared Piercefield led Bluffton (18-5) with 16 points and three steals. Mason Soper added 14 points and four boards for the Pirates.
“We got out big,” LCC coach Frank Kill said. “They were in a man-to-man defense. I thought our transition offense was extremely important in this game. Our defense on Soper and Piercefield was phenomenal.”
LCC raced out to a 7-0 lead to start the contest. A 3-pointer by Riepenhoff helped jump-start the T-Birds.
Bluffton did not get on the scoreboard until the 3:55 mark, when Piercefield hit an 8-footer to make it 7-2, LCC.
LCC pulled out to a 15-4 lead by the end of the first quarter.
The T-Birds connected on 7 of 12 shots from the field in the first eight minutes.
Riepenhoff led LCC with seven first-quarter points.
Bluffton struggled in the first quarter, as it hit just 2 of 11 from the floor.
LCC started to pull away.
The T-Birds’ lead ballooned to 19, 35-16 by the halftime break.
“We knew we had to come out strong, because our last game, against Paulding (sectional semifinal win), we came out very slow,” Johnson said.
Bluffton continued to struggle at the offensive end. The Pirates ended the first half, shooting just 7 of 25 from the field for 28 percent. LCC was 16 of 26 from the floor for a blistering 62 percent.
Johnson scored seven points in the second quarter for LCC, and ended the first half with nine points, five rebounds and four assists.
But Bluffton wasn’t going to go away.
The Pirates cut the deficit to 9, 45-36 on two free throws by Piercefield with 57.9 seconds left in the third quarter.
LCC led 47-36 at the third stop.
Bluffton was 8 of 14 from the field in the third. Soper scored eight points in that eight-minute span.
For the game, LCC shot 58 percent from the field. Bluffton connected on 39 percent of its field goal attempts.
“Making layups early on was so important,” Kill said. “In the third quarter, we kind of came out flat. … But give a lot of credit to Bluffton. They came out and played us tough, defensively. We talked about trusting the process, and trusting the game plan.”
LCC turned the ball over 18 times, while Bluffton turned it over 10 times.
However, it seemed like any time LCC needed a defensive stop, Kill’s players stepped up.
“Shaun Thomas, to me, is one of the best defenders in the area. He takes a lot of pride in it. We made a lot of things happen (defensively),” Kill said.
Bluffton was without the services of senior standout Luke Denecker, because of an injury.
Wayne Trace 60, Fairview 43
In a game between two Green Meadows Conference foes, Wayne Trace got out to an early lead and went on for the 17-point victory.
Wayne Trace was led by Nate Gerber’s game-high 27 points. Alex Reinhart scored 17 points for the Raiders.
The Raiders led 19-13 by the end of the first quarter, and 29-18 by the halftime break.
Gerber (11) and Reinhart (10) led Wayne Trace in the first half.
Fairview did not have an answer for Gerber. The 6-foot, 5-inch senior dominated down low, scoring 16 points in the second half.
On the night, Wayne Trace was 10 of 12 shooting from the free throw line.
Caleb Frank led Fairview (11-13) with 12 points. Chayse Singer added 11 points for the Apaches.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.