LIMA — Lima Central Catholic looked nothing like a team with a losing record Tuesday night. The T-Birds went toe-to-toe with Van Wert, then pulled away in the fourth quarter for an impressive 58-51 win.
LCC is now 8-13. Van Wert is 10-10.
The hosts dominated the game’s first six minutes, but the Cougars came back and it was close thereafter until midway through the final period.
The T-Birds’ 6-8 senior Mark Janowski hit a buzzer-beating reverse layup to give LCC a 38-35 lead after three. LCC then started the fourth period with a 10-2 run to lead 48-37 with 3:35 left in the game. Van Wert’s senior point guard Jacoby Kelly scored the Cougs’ first 13 fourth-quarter points and got his team within 52-48 on a straightaway 3-pointer at 1:19. Forced to foul then, Van Wert could only hope for a bunch of missed free throws. That didn’t happen, as LCC sophomore point guard Biggz Johnson hit 5 of 6 freebies to seal the deal.
“I wish I had more answers,” said a discouraged coach Mark Bagley. “We’ve gotta find a way to right the ship obviously before Friday to finish our league the right way (against Defiance). Then next Wednesday it all goes to zero-zero (in the tournament). Give LCC credit. They did a lot of good things tonight. They exploited our weaknesses, and it turned into a frustrating night.”
LCC led 12-10 after one. The Cougars caught up for the first time early in the second period on two free throws by freshman Owen Treece. The lead then went back and forth before Kelly sliced through the lane for a buzzer-beating layup and one to give Van Wert a 23-21 halftime lead.
All of the stats were pretty even during the first half. Van Wert had two more field goals, but four of LCC’s baskets were from beyond the arc while the Cougs hit only one from long range. T-Bird senior Matthew Cecale hit nothing but net on all three of his first-half 3-point tries.
There were four ties and three lead changes in the third quarter, but junior Brayden O’Dell’s triple that put LCC up 36-33 at 1:05 put the T-Birds ahead for good.
For the game as a whole, the major statistical difference was on the boards where LCC dominated, 27-13. Field goal shooting was almost even — LCC at 49 percent (20 of 41), Van Wert at 46 percent (19 of 41). Both teams hit six 3-pointers, but the T-Birds did that on only eight shots, the Cougars 19. Van Wert had fewer turnovers, 12-14. LCC hit 12 of 16 free throws (75 percent), Van Wert 7 of 10 (70 percent).
LCC coach Frank Kill substituted liberally to keep fresh legs on the floor, allowing the T-Birds to effectively employ an impressive defense that made easy shots almost impossible to come by. Of the 12 T-Birds to see action, nine scored, led by seniors Janowski, Cecala, and Brendan Stolly with 12, 12, and 11. Kelly and Treece had 22 and 12 for the Cougars.
The Van Wert jayvees are 17-3 after a 54-47 double overtime loss. The Cougars were led in scoring by sophomores Jake Hilleary, Tanner Barnhart, Clayton Proffitt, and Colin Place with 13, 12, 8, and 7. Freshman Shaun Thomas, freshman Rossy Moore, and sophomore Michael Jay Riepenhoff had 28, 10, and 9 for LCC (16-5).