COLUMBUS — Powered by 22 points from senior guard Martyce Kimbrough, the Lima Central Catholic Thunderbirds claimed their second OHSAA Division III state championship in five years, defeating Cleveland Villa Angela-St.Joseph in a thriller at Ohio State’s Value City Arena on Saturday afternoon, 64-62.
The Thunderbirds (25-4), who claimed the 2010 D-III title with current head coach and Defiance College product Frank Kill as an assistant, led by as much as 14 with 5:59 left in the third quarter before the five-time state champion Vikings (22-8) roared back.
Juniors Carlton Bragg (6-10) and Derek Pardon (6-8) spurred the Viking comeback with 11 points each in the second half, bringing the game to a 51-51 tie with with 4:31 left in regulation.
Clutch free throws down the stretch from Kimbrough and Xavier Simpson down the stretch helped secure the victory for Lima Central Catholic, whose victory was not secure until Jake Williams grabbed his own offensive rebound on a missed free throw and kept the T-Bird possession alive with 1.7 ticks left.
“We didn’t care about their background,” commented Kill, who won the D-IV state championship as a player at Lincolnview in 1997. “We came out as a team that was going to beat them. We know they are a good team, but we are too.”
In addition to Kimbrough’s 22, sophomore point guard Simpson netted 18 points while 6-2 Jake Williams held his own in the post, adding 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
“In the second half, Xavier stepped up,” lauded Kill of his point gurad. “I’m not a big fan of the floater but I loved it today.”
Villa Angela-St. Joseph, having already claimed state championships in Division I (1991), II (1992) and IV (2013), was thwarted in their quest to become the first team in OHSAA history to win titles in all four divisions.
“This team always found ways to win games like that, but it just didn’t happen,” said VASJ mentor Babe Kwasniak of his Vikings’ effort. “We didn’t play particularly great but give them (LCC) credit, especially in the first half. They were tough to guard.”
Bragg led all scorers with 23 points while Pardon added a monster effort of 17 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks before fouling out. Fellow junior point guard Brian Parker added 15 for the Vikings, who trailed 34-25 at the half.