Tre Cobbs was electrifying and Lima Central Catholic left little doubt that they’re intent on winning their second state title in three years.
Columbus – Frank Kill’s Lima Central Catholic made the first “athletic” impression of the 2016 tournament, a thrill-a-minute performance by seniors Tre Cobbs, Dantez Walton, and the Thunderbirds brought the curtain down on Roger Bacon in the day’s second Division III semi-final, 74-56
Cobbs finished with 20 points…Walton with 32…in a game in which Cincinnati’s GCL representative was simply no match.
After a 17-13 first quarter lead, LCC extended their halftime advantage to 32-25 and steadily extended the lead throughout the third and fourth quarters.
Cobbs was lightning-quick, and established himself as both scoring threat and distributor. He finished the game with 5 assists and three steals in addition to his 20 points.
Walton was the consummate benefactor, on the finishing end of many of Cobbs’ passes, proving himself as a threat at the rim and behind the arc. He also had a game-high 11 rebounds!
“He just found me,” Walton demurred. “He did such a good job of getting up down the floor and putting pressure on their defense. I was getting open and he found me. He finished 12-19 from the floor (57%).
LCC jumped out immediately, running off to a 10-0 lead before Bacon reeled the T-Birds back in with a 10-0 run of their own, shooting 43% for the first quarter.
But LCC’s defense clamped down in the second, going to a zone for a time, and cut off many of the easy trips to the rim for Bacon’s Justin Johnson and James Johnson.
“We take a lot of pride in our defense,” said LCC’s Frank Kill. “Obviously they were getting more easy looks at the rim than we liked and the zone helped us change things up a little. I thought we got after ’em pretty good in the second half and wore them down.”
Their win now marks the third time in as many years that LCC and Villa Angela-St. Joseph will meet in the Division III final, according to Kill, a very familiar scenario for his team, his seniors, and especially Tre Cobbs and Dantez Walton.
“At this point it’s a business trip,” said Walton. “Yeah, we’re going to relax a bit and watch the other two Lima Schools that are here (Lima Senior and Lincolnview), but these guys have been here three years in a row and they’re accustomed to what this is all about.
“I asked Tre and Dantez during the summer to become better leaders for the program, and today they did that. Give a lot of credit to our seniors because they do so much for us at both ends of the court.”
If experience counts, Kill and the vocal LCC contingent on hand have to appreciate the confidence in Tre Cobbs moving into Saturday’s championship round, who calmly called Thursday’s win “just another game”, and in the next breath added, “Saturday’s the one we came for.”
“I think Coach Kwasniak (VASJ coach Babe Kwasniak) has to be considered at the Division III coach of the year because they lost everyone from last year’s team and here they are back here again in the final,” said Kill. “We’ve become good friends over the years and I told him during the summer that it would be cool if we could meet again in the finals. He had no idea at the time, but he said he’d take that…and here he is.”
Indeed, here they are, setting up one of the more interesting footnotes of the 2016 tournament. VASJ will be seeking their seventh state title since 1991. LCC will be seeking their third.
Roger Bacon finished their season with a 21-8 mark, shooting 42% in Thursday’s loss. The two Johnsons, James and Justin, respectively, led the Spartans with 14 and 16 points.
LCC continues with 27-1 record (their lone loss this year to Division I Lima Senior, 54-52), and shot 525 from the field. Cobbs and Walton were joined in double figures by fellow senior Ethan O’connor, who finished with 12 points.