TOLEDO – There were differences. There were moments when Lima Senior had reasons to feel optimistic. But in the end, it was all too familiar.
Saturday, for the second year in a row, Lima Senior was beaten by Cleveland St. Ignatius in a Division I boys basketball regional championship game.
This time, it was by a 74-58 score at the University of Toledo’s Savage Arena. Last year, it was 56-44 at Norwalk.
Lima Senior was still within three points with 6:46 left in the game. But the Spartans went cold late in the game (3 of 15 shooting in the fourth quarter) and St. Ignatius closed it out by hitting 9 of its last 12 shots.
St. Ignatius (17-11) advanced to the Division I state tournament, where it was a semifinalist last season. Lima Senior finished its season 24-3.
Brent Moss led Lima Senior with 18 points and 9 rebounds and Jareon Mayo had 10 points. St. Ignatius put five players in double figures, led by guards Ace Buckner with 17 points and Carter Jackson with 15 points.
Lima Senior had the lead briefly in each of the first three quarters but every time it got ahead, St. Ignatius responded almost immediately. The Spartans’ last lead was at 41-38 on a 3-pointer by Quintel Wilson Jr. with 3:36 left in the third quarter.
“We always say a key to winning big games is usually the most aggressive team is going to win. St. Ignatius was the most aggressive team today,” Lima Senior coach Quincey Simpson said. “We didn’t match their aggressiveness for 32 minutes the way I thought we should. We did in little spurts but not consistently enough to win the game.”
St. Ignatius coach Cameron Joyce said, “We had to rebound with those guys and we had to keep them out of transition as much as possible. We had to make them get the ball out of the net and come down and score in the half court. I thought we did a good job of that for the most part.
“Our calling cards are our defense and our depth. We kept bringing in fresh bodies and wore them down a bit. We changed up our defenses a little just to keep them on their toes and make them think a little.”
Two of those fresh bodies off the bench were second-team players in name only. Jackson (15 points) and 6-10 post player C.J. Yarian (13 points, 6 rebounds) began the game on the bench.
“In my mind we’ve got seven starters,” Joyce said. He called Yarian, who was a starter until midseason, “a key reason we’re going back to Dayton.”
St. Ignatius lost in the state semifinals last season. From day one this season, it has talked about getting another chance at the state tournament.
“We talked about it from the start. We’re not going to hide away. Our goal is always to get to Game 30, which is the last game,” Joyce said. “Last year we got to the second-to-the-last game. We want to get to the last game. It was a tremendous effort by these guys of setting out a goal and getting to it.”
St. Ignatius shot 60 percent on field goals (60 percent) and 50 percent on 3-pointers (6 of 12). Lima Senior made 39 percent of its field goal attempts (21 of 54) and hit 33 percent of its 3-pointers (7 of 21).
“It was a very different game than last year. This year was more guard play, last year it was more inside play. They had a couple of really good bigs last year. This year it was all perimeter based. Even the 6-10 guy went 4 for 4 in the first half, all on jumpers,” Simpson said.
“We let those guys transition on us on both missed and made baskets, which is something we talked about over and over. Both teams had a game plan and, obviously, they executed theirs a little better than we did.
“It was a great year. Cam (Miles) and Khalil (Luster) have more wins than anyone in school history. My seniors have been here since they were freshmen. They’ve experienced four regional finals. So we have nothing to hang our chins down about,” he said.