COLUMBUS — After a hard-fought, physical Division III state semifinal Friday afternoon, the Thunderbirds of Lima Central Catholic will play for their second D-III state title in five years as LCC (24-4) dispatched St. Bernard Roger Bacon (21-5) at the Jerome Schottenstein Center, 63-44.
The contest between the Thunderbirds and Spartans, who combined for 55 free throw attempts in the game, was decided in the third quarter, as LCC’s switch to a 1-3-1 zone befuddled Roger Bacon and gave the T-Birds a 14-4 scoring advantage in the quarter.
“They were getting to the foul line, so in order to stop penetration, we made the choice to force them to the outside to make shots,” explained T-Bird coach Frank Kill, a Defiance College graduate, on the defensive shift. “We knew keeping them off the boards and second chances would be huge. It was a total team effort. We sent all five to the basket.”
The Spartans, who committed more turnovers (six) than attempted field goals (five), shot just 12-of-39 from the field in the game (31 percent) and were held 29 points below their season scoring average of 73.8 points per contest.
Lima Central Catholic, on the other hand, had three different players record double-figure scoring efforts, led by senior Martyce Kimbrough - an Indianapolis commit - who scored 19. Sophomores Xavier Simpson and Tre Cobbs chipped in 14 and 13 points, respectively. The Thunderbirds outrebounded Roger Bacon 40-28 on the afternoon, including a 15-7 on the offensive boards.
LCC’s lead, just 32-25 at half, swelled to as much as 26 points at 61-35 after an Ethan O’Connor layup with 2:58 left in regulation.
“It just felt like the perfect storm,” said Spartan head coach Brian Neal. “Whatever could go wrong did go wrong. Everytime it seemed like we got the momentum, they wrestled away from us.”
The Thunderbirds will advance to the Division III state championship game Saturday at 4:30 p.m. to face the Vikings of Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph, who cruised past Columbus Bishop Ready, 55-40.