By ANDREW WILLIAMS
BOWLING GREEN — Speed is a great equalizer for an undersized team that is overmatched, or an underdog team playing against a favored opponent, because it provides the opportunity to dictate tempo and pace of play.
For a team that is the clear favorite and possesses superior size, speed is a major weapon.
Lima Central Catholic ran over, past, around and through tournament rival Ottawa-Glandorf en route to a 55-40 victory in a Division III boys regional final Saturday night at Bowling Green State University’s Stroh Center.
The Thunderbirds (23-4) advance to the state tournament for the first time since 2010, when they were the state champions in Division III. They will face St. Bernard Roger Bacon (22-4) in a state semifinal Friday at Ohio State’s Value City Arena at 2 p.m.
Reigning state champion Ottawa-Glandorf finishes its season at 17-11.
The Titans led 5-2 after a 3-pointer by Noah Bramlage and a basket by Tyler Zender in the opening minutes. The lead was short-lived, though.
Martyce Kimbrough’s basket, the first of his team-high 19 points, with less than three minutes to play in the first gave Central Catholic a 6-5 margin, and it would never relinquish the lead.
“For us it was one shot. Limit them to just one shot and then turn it into some transition points,” Central Catholic coach Frank Kill said. “We handled their pressure, that zone. I thought that was the difference-maker in the first half and we were able to get some transition baskets where they had to come out of their zone and play some man.”
The Thunderbirds increased their 10-8 lead after the first quarter into a 23-17 edge at halftime thanks to baskets by Kimbrough, Xavier Simpson and Jake Williams, as well as Ottawa-Glandorf going more than five minutes without a field goal.
If Central Catholic’s speed wasn’t apparent from watching the contest, the numbers left no doubt.
A 16-4 edge in points in the paint to go with a 7-2 margin in points off turnovers and 6-0 in fast-break points solidified the Thunderbirds’ control of the game’s tempo.
“That’s what we pride ourselves on. Making it a transition game, an up-tempo game,” Kill said. “We’re OK to set a slow pace, but we want to get out and go. We’ve got a bunch of horses that want to run. If we get opportunities, we’re a go, go, go team and the last thing we want to do is miss an opportunity at a layup.”
The Titans ended the half with more turnovers (6) than made field goals (5) and were physically drained from playing at a pace above what they are accustomed to.
“LCC, they’re just really good,” Ottawa-Glandorf coach Tyson McGlaughlin said. “They’re very athletic. They put a lot of pressure on you. We were never able to get comfortable. We couldn’t get into the spots that we wanted. In order for us to beat a team that caliber, we had to have an opportunity to get to those spots and they totally pushed us out of those areas and that’s what good teams do.”
After Zach Kuhlman’s basket to open the third quarter, the Titans went on a three-minute scoring drought and were outscored 8-0 during that span to trail 31-22 midway through the period.
Kimbrough dropped in 12 of his team’s 20 points in the third and the Thunderbirds grabbed a 43-32 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
Brad Recker’s basket with 5:48 to play cut it to 43-36 but the Titans, who shot 31.4 percent (11 of 35) from the field in the game, again went more than three minutes without scoring.
By the time Bramlage, who had a team-high 19 points, hit 1 of 2 at the line with 2:33 remaining, Central Catholic was ahead 47-37 and it was too little, too late.
The Thunderbirds shot 42.5 percent (17 of 40) from the field, while outscoring the Titans 24-12 in the paint, 14-3 off turnovers and 10-0 on the fast break.
“We needed that game to be in the 40s. That was our goal,” McGlaughlin said. “We wanted to make sure that we eliminated some transition baskets. You play a team like that, you just can’t have those types of miscues because they capitalize and they definitely did that tonight.”
A. Schroeder 1-6 2-2 4, Trampe-Kindt 0-1 0-0 0, Kuhlman 1-3 2-2 4, Zender 3-5 0-0 6, Bramlage 4-15 9-12 19, T. Schroeder 0-0 0-0 0, Wischmeyer 0-0 0-0 0, Recker 2-5 2-2 7, Osting 0-0 0-0 0, Blevins 0-0 0-0 0, Alt 0-0 0-0 0 TOTALS: 11-35 15-18—40.
LIMA CENTRAL CATHOLIC (23-4)
Simpson 3-11 2-3 8, Kimbrough 6-14 4-4 19, Cobbs 1-5 4-5 6, Walton 3-5 1-2 8, Williams 1-1 6-8 8, Taflinger 1-2 0-0 0, E. O’Connor 1-1 0-0 2, A. O’Connor 0-0 0-0 0, Stewart 1-1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 17-40 17-22 55.
Ottawa-Glandorf 8 9 15 8 — 40
Lima Central Catholic 10 13 20 12 — 55
3-Point GOALS: Lima Central Catholic 4-10 (Kimbrough 3-7, Cobbs 0-2, Taflinger 1-1); Ottawa-Glandorf 3-12 (A. Schroeder 0-3, Trampe-Kindt 0-1, Bramlage 2-5, Recker 1-3).
rebounds: Lima Central Catholic 28 (Walton 8); Ottawa-Glandorf 24 (Kuhlman 7).
ASSISTS: Lima Central Catholic 8 (Simpson & Kimbrough 3); Ottawa-Glandorf 4 (Trampe-Kindt 2).
STEALS: Lima Central Catholic 8, Ottawa-Glandorf 2.
BLOCKS: Ottawa-Glandorf 3 (Bramlage 3); Lima Central Catholic 2.
TURNOVERS: Ottawa-Glandorf 11, Lima Central Catholic 5.
TOTAL FOULS: Ottawa-Glandorf 17, Lima Central Catholic 16.
FOULED OUT: None.