By MICHAEL BURWELL
BOWLING GREEN — Lima Central Catholic got over the hump that is Ottawa-Glandorf during tournament play.
The Thunderbirds’ past three seasons ended at the hands of O-G, but in a Division III regional final Saturday night at Bowling Green State University’s Stroh Center, it was LCC’s turn to finish off the Titans.
Lima Central Catholic’s speed, along with the shooting of senior guard Martyce Kimbrough, paced the Thunderbirds past O-G 55-40 as LCC earned its first trip to the state tournament since 2010, when it took home its only state title.
“Being that O-G’s had my number for the last three years since I became a head coach, district finals, regional finals and then regional semis, they’ve been my Achilles’ heel,” LCC head coach Frank Kill said. “I’ve been snake-bitten for three years.
“Last year, they were the state champions, and we have a sign in our locker room that says, ‘Every champion was once a contender,’ and we knew that we were going to have to beat the champion if we want to be that champion.”
LCC’s season last year ended with a 60-52 loss to O-G in the regional semifinals. In 2012, it ended with a 44-38 loss in the regional final and the previous year, O-G escaped with a 56-54 win in the district final.
With a tournament win over a rival like O-G comes a lot of confidence.
Kill said that having players like Kimbrough returning from last year’s team, along with other role players starting and coming off the bench, built chemistry during the offseason.
“We established ourselves in the summer of things that we wanted to do, and it was very evident that we have potential,” Kill said. “The last thing I want to do is have them be accepting where they’re at.”
Kimbrough’s 19 points, including 12 in the third quarter when LCC extended its 23-17 halftime lead to 43-32, powered the Thunderbirds.
He also drained three 3-pointers, was 4 of 4 from the free-throw line and had a team-high three assists.
The 6-foot-1 senior had big shoes to fill since he got his start the year after Lima Central Catholic won its Division III state title.
“All these guys, especially Martyce as an incoming freshman, that’s what he had to follow,” Kill said. “He’s done a great job of stepping up and being that senior leader this year.
“Because we’re not in a conference, we always talk about ‘let’s go to state. Why not us this year?’ We had that mentality that we had to continue to get better every day.”
With emotions running high coming off Saturday night’s win, Kill wants his players to enjoy the trip to Columbus this week.
“Those are feelings and emotions that you want all of your players to have. I’ve been coaching for 12 years now, and I’ve wanted every single one of my players that I’ve coached to have those feelings,” Kill said.
“I was fortunate to be around in 2010 and see a group of guys come together as a family, and for us, we’re really tight right now.
“We’re a close-knit family right now and the last thing I want to do is have it end.”
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