For the third time in three years VASJ and Lima Central Catholic played for the Division III title, and the T-Birds “proudly” took the trophy and bragging rights back to Lima!
Columbus – OHSAA deputy commissioner Roxanne Price made the claim as she awarded the trophy. “Gentlemen, you are the most successful senior class in the history of your school…a two-time state champion.”
Simple as that.
The Lima Central Catholic T-Birds made no bones about establishing that proclamation Saturday morning with an impressive 66-44 win over Villa Angela-St. Joseph in front of 11,109 in the Division III finals, winning the title game between the two schools for the second time in the last three years.
“It’s something that Coach (Babe) Kwasniak and I talked about back in the summer,” said Kill on Thursday. “How cool would it be to come back here again and play in the finals.”
And even cooler when you win.
The T-Birds led 27-26 at the half, and somehow survived a possible momentum swing of a made three-pointer by VASJ at the buzzer. Possible, but it never manifested.
LCC came out with a vengeance on both ends of the floor in the second half and steadily built a margin of 10, 15, 20, and eventually their 22-point winning deficit.
It was the one-two punch of point guard Tre Cobbs and forward Dantez Walton that again led LCC, propelling them to a 28-1 season record and their third state championship in the past three years.
“Losing here last year was a motivation,” said Cobbs and Walton. “We have that newspaper picture with us having our heads down,” added Walton. “I think you heard us celebrating in our locker room today. This is a whole lot better.”
“I thought we were flat at the beginning,” said Kill. “We came in at halftime and talked about being more aggressive and rebounding. We gave up four offensive rebounds in the first half and only had five fouls. We usually have five fouls in a quarter.”
But four made uncontested three-pointers by Cobbs, who finished with 24 points, flipped momentum in the game…and quelled any thoughts that VASJ may have had about a second-half uprising.
“He makes big shots like that,” said Kill. “He’s worked so hard on his shot, and he’s capable of taking over a game. He’s worked to come back from the shoulder injury from last year and he’s playing with the confidence of a champion. The only reason he’s not a more highly-profiled Division I recruit is the injury and not being seen enough. Hopefully after today I’m going to get a lot more calls about him.”
LCC finished shooting 49% for the game, 36% from behind the arc, and a perfect 6 for 6 from the foul line. Dantez Walton complemented Cobbs’ game-high 24 with 20 points of his own.
VASJ finished 23-6 overall for the season, shooting 36% for the game, and 21% from three-point range. But it was the mutual respect between the two coaches, and programs…the unusual “three-peat” of the two meeting for the third time in three years, that truly made this Division III championship one to cherish. One to remember.
“First, I told Tre Cobbs that if he isn’t a Division I point guard I don’t know what one looks like,” said Kwasniak.
“And second, Frank Kill is a great coach, and an even better Christian and man. He came up and talked to our kids last summer and challenged us then to meet for a third time for the championship. I told him, ‘easy for you to say’, because I knew how talented they were going to be.
“When I was out on leave he called to check on me every week. I know what he means to those kids that play for him in terms of a model, and I’m proud to share the kind of core values that he represents. I think our schools are alike in that respect.”
It marked the third all-time championship for LCC. They won in 2010 in Coach Bob Seggerson’s last game. They won in 2014, lost to VASJ in 2015, and went home with the gold trophy Saturday, accented by the words of Roxanne Price.
“Take this trophy back to the championship city…Lima, Ohio.”
Prophetic, perhaps, as Lima Senior (Division I) plays Westerville South later today for a title…and Lincolnview (from nearby Van Wert) will play for the Division IV title against Cornerstone Christian.