TOLEDO — Even without its familiar large fan following, Lima Senior found itself in familiar territory after a 50-48 win over Toledo Start in a Division I boys basketball regional semifinal at the University of Toledo on Wednesday night.
That win in front of around 250 fans at Savage Arena puts the Spartans into a regional championship game for the second year in a row and for the fourth time in the last six years.
Josiah Fulcher and Jamir Simpson scored 13 points each to lead Lima Senior (23-3). T.J. Showers had 13 points and Dashad Floyd scored 12 points and pulled down a dozen rebounds for Start (21-5).
The Spartans will play Lakewood St. Edward (25-1) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Savage Hall for a trip to the state basketball tournament. St. Edward’s beat Lorain 76-55 in Wednesday night’s other regional semifinal.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association’s decision to permit only four family members per player limited the size of the crowd and might have played a role in a slow start by both teams.
“It was really weird. We had to come out and give our own energy,” Lima Senior’s Camren Miles said.
Fulcher said, “It was kind of awkward. But my guys and I faced adversity and we got the job done.”
After that slow start, though, it turned into a hotly contested game. Lima Senior led 24-23 at halftime and 32-30 after three quarters.
The Spartans’ biggest lead was five points with 29 seconds left in the game and Start’s biggest lead was four points twice in the second quarter and once in the third quarter. In the final seconds, Lima Senior had to survive a 3-point attempt by Showers that would have won the game for his team.
“That’s a really good team over there. Hats off to them. They played a really good ball game,” Fulcher said.
For Start, the outcome was all to familiar. It lost 51-48 to Lima Senior in a regional semifinal last season.
Lima Senior coach Quincey Simpson said, “It’s tough to play in this type of atmosphere when your fans aren’t here. We depend on our fans. Our fans in Lima look for the tournament run and they weren’t able to be here. That hurt them, that hurt me, that hurt our players, that hurt our community.
“I told the guys coming up here, ‘You’re playing for the city of Lima. They’re expecting us to come back with a W.’ I told them we had to have practice tomorrow.
“We’re going to ride the coat tails of Josiah and Jamir the same way we’ve been doing the last two years. We trust those guys offensively. There are eight (Division I) teams left. We’re happy to be one of the eight,” he said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.