LIMA – Two of the better area girls’ basketball teams braved the elements Saturday afternoon and faced off at the Monsignor E. C. Herr Gymnasium at Lima Central Catholic.
Lima Senior came in and handed the Thunderbirds their first loss of the season, 72-64, but not before the Spartans were forced to hold off a furious fourth quarter charge by LCC.
The Spartans (6-1) got off to a hot start and flashed their balance and athleticism as they took a 21-11 lead after one quarter of play and then widened that lead to 42-23 going to the halftime break.
Lima Senior dominated the boards 28-16 in the first two stanzas and also forced the T-Birds (6-1) into 14 first half turnovers.
The Spartans expanded the lead to 30 points when the score reached 63-33 late in the third quarter.
Lima Senior led 67-41 early in the fourth when the T-Birds went on a 21-0 run to get back into the game at 67-62 with a minute left to play. But the Spartans answered that run by hitting 5-of-6 free throws over the final minute of play as LCC was forced to foul in an attempt to regain possession.
“I had no idea that run was that big; I thought it was only 10 or 12 points.” Lima Senior coach Vince Halliday said. “Give them credit as they hung in there and battled back. Turnovers got us in trouble, and we might have relaxed with that big lead.”
The Spartans were led in scoring by Indiya Benjamin with a game-high 22 points that included five 3-pointers. She got big assists from Rion Thompson with 13 points and Miea Ward who finished with 11. Lima Senior showed their balance as Essence Cowan totaled 9 points while Imara Haynes and Kierre James both finished with 8 points.
“We played really well the first two and a half quarters,” Halliday said. “We do a good job of sharing the ball and being unselfish; we have gotten just a bit lackadaisical.”
LCC meanwhile got a team-high 21-point scoring effort from freshman Madison Stolly. Senior Meredith Shepherd totaled 17 points, including 9 in the frantic fourth quarter.
“We got ahead of ourselves in that first half,” LCC coach Katie Krieg said. “We weren’t moving the ball, and we played into what they wanted which was turnovers. We have to play our game; we can’t let the other team control the tempo. We finally got it going but it was too little too late.”
The Spartans finished the game hitting 42 percent from the field on 26-of-61 that included 10-of-21 from 3-point land. Lima Senior struggled from the free throw line, connecting on only 10-of-24 for 41 percent.
LCC had its problems from the floor as it ended the game connecting on 22-of-57 from the floor for 38 percent. The T-Birds hit 11-of-18 from the free throw line for 61 percent.