LIMA — A state championship for a high school is always a call for celebration.
Saturday, the Lima Central Catholic T-Birds brought home the sixth such title for the school as they beat last year’s defending Division IV state champion, Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph, 64-62.
LCC had previously brought home state championships in boys golf in 2002, 2003 and 2005, volleyball in 2007 and boys basketball in 2010.
With boys basketball team doing it again this year, the team has established its place in school history. Every state championship is equal. However, every one is also unique.
Head coach Frank Kill was immediately able to point out the single-most describing quality which will forever be labeled with this year’s championship team.
“Everyone bought into the team mentality,” Kill said. “We had a bunch of sophomores playing with a lot of upperclassmen. We had a lot of seniors losing minutes to younger players. That takes a lot. Cory Stewart was a starter as a sophomore. Now he was playing role minutes. He, and everyone else, was willing to do whatever was needed to win a state championship.”
For Kill, it was his first state championship as a head coach in his four-year stint with the school. He was an assistant coach on the 2010 championship team under former LCC coach Bob Seggerson.
However, Kill is no stranger to state championships. Kill was the head coach for the 2005 state championship golf team. He also played on the 1997 27-0 state championship Lincolnview team.
There is no doubting the T-Birds were very good. But it was one game in particular which helped the T-Birds turn into a great team.
On Feb. 14 at Spencerville, Spencerville’s Zach Goecke hit a 3-pointer as time ran out to hand LCC a 56-53 loss. It was at that moment, the team took things more seriously.
“We had some chemistry issues,” Kill said. “The team went into the Celina game and talked about fixing that. They had the mentality that the first 22 games didn’t matter. We learned a lot from our four losses. That makes you a dangerous team when every position on the floor is an option.”
In the packed Edward C. Herr Gymnasium of more than 500 people, everyone was thanked from the players to the cheerleaders, to the coaches to the student body.
Principal Kathleen Herpich said she was proud of how the players represented the school.
“Besides their athletic talent, I was proud of how they conducted themselves off of the court,” she said. “They had plenty of chances to not do that. I saw them walk away again and again and again.”
Mayor Dave Berger congratulated the team on behalf of the Lima community.
“We have a board in front of the city building displaying the local schools,” Berger said. “But because Ron (LCC assistant coach and athletic director Rob Williams) is in charge of it, tomorrow there will be 15. How proud we are of LCC. Thanks on behalf of the entire community.
LCC President Walt Klimaski said it was a victory where the entire school participated.
“What a great weekend to be a T-Bird,” Klimaski said. “This is the most spirituous student body I have ever seen. They supported the players and they looked to them.”
Senior Zach Schroeder called the moment “one of the best days of my life next to being born.”
Senior Stechschulte called it a sad day in a way with his career being over. “To look back, it was so much fun.”
Senior Martyce Kimbrough said in was something special.
“This is a good team,” he said. “Everyone got better.”
The team enjoyed videos and pictures from happy moments from the season and the championship run. The players also stuck around to sign posters for everyone after the rally.
However, Kill said there there is still a wanting that will not go away despite losing several senior leaders.
“We will have some big shoes to fill with Martyce leaving,” Kill said, “but we know what we are capable of now. St. Joseph brings everybody back next year so we know who we have to go through for another one. I can guarantee right now that there are six kids who will enjoy the moment for about 48 hours. Then they will be finding a gym somewhere and start practicing again.”