The 2013-14 basketball season is going to be a tough act to follow here in Lima. Start with the fact fans were treated to some historic individual achievements at local schools. Both Elida’s Dakota Mathias and Bath’s Taren Sullivan ended their careers as the leading scorers in their school’s history. In addition, Martyce Kimbrough (LCC) and Bruce Hodges (Perry) passed the 1,000 point scoring plateau. And don’t forget the spectacular Indiya Benjamin of Lima Senior High. She became the leading scorer in the history of the Spartans’ lady basketball program. For all of those achievements to take place in the same season is remarkable and speaks to the quality of basketball played in the city this year.
Crestview puts on a clinic
The Crestview Knights didn’t just capture the state title this season. They basically put a strangle hold on their opponents and had them crying “Uncle.” Their march through the postseason tournament was a thing of beauty and had me thinking I was watching Coach Jeremy Best and his Knights conduct a clinic on how to defend. Their pressure on the ball, denial in the passing lanes and help defense wore out the opposition, and it was interesting to watch the level of frustration mount in their opponents as the games wore on.
Put to numbers, Crestview held its tournament foes to an average 36.5 points a game. At state, the Knights held New Madison Tri-Village 24 points below its normal offensive production and in the title game limited St. Thomas Aquinas to 20 points under its offensive average. And they did not accomplish that feat by holding the ball on offense. Their offense was efficient and attacked the rim at every opportunity.
I believe the first few minutes of the third quarter in basketball are “coaches minutes.” Many games are decided by the adjustments and corrections made in the locker room at halftime by coaches and their staffs. Crestview owned the third quarter at state. The Knights outscored their opponents 35 to 7 in the third quarter of those two games. In the state championship game the Knights walked into the locker room at halftime nursing a slim lead against a pesky St. Thomas Aquinas squad. Crestview began the third quarter with an incredible 18-0 run and put the game out of reach.
While watching the Knights play in Columbus the comments I heard most often from spectators sitting around me was how well coached Crestview appeared. Fans around Ohio were just learning what we in this area have known for a long time. Jeremy Best is one of the best high school coaches in Ohio and now he has a state championship to add to his impressive resume.
Hour of Reckoning
I believe the destiny of Lima Central Catholic’s season was forged the night of Feb. 15 in a game at Celina. The T-Birds were coming off a shocking last second loss at Spencerville the night before that seemed to take the wind out of their sails on the court and in the locker room. Playing against a solid Bulldog squad the next night, LCC found itself down late in the game in a tough environment. With 3:39 left in the fourth quarter and down nine points, coach Frank Kill called a timeout. I was sitting in the stands that night among the T-Bird faithful, many of whom had assumed the game was pretty much over and LCC’s season was slipping away. But I saw a resolve in the faces of those young players coming out of that timeout I had not seen before. In the heat of that critical moment and challenge, the Thunderbirds grew up and became a different team. Led by their spectacular senior, Martyce Kimbrough, they fought their way back into the game with a tenacious defense and unselfish offense. Their effort was rewarded with an overtime win that appeared out of reach just moments earlier. It was the defining game for a team that would then march to a state championship title armed with the same resolve it discovered on that cold night in Celina.
LCC received spectacular performances from all its players in capturing the state championship. Kimbrough, Xavier Simpson and Jake Williams made the all-tournament team and Martyce earned the MVP award. But give coach Frank Kill a ton of credit. Kill was at ease and relaxed on final four stage. He earned MVP honors himself in high school as Lincolnview captured a state championship in his senior year. He was also an assistant coach four years ago when LCC captured its first state title. Following Coach Kill’s lead, the young Thunderbirds were loose, confident and aggressive at state. It’s not easy taking the reigns of a successful program, and I believe there were many who felt Kill was working in the shadow of its previous coach. After 89 wins in just four years and a state championship, Coach Frank Kill can now begin to cast his own shadow.
Best move at state
This one is easy. The best move I witnessed at state this year came from Crestview’s long time athletic director and assistant coach, Dave Bowen. In the closing seconds of the Knights championship game three young bench players were sitting at the scorers table desperately waiting to get into the game. The clock was running, and it appeared the game would end with the substitutes still mired on the sidelines. As an official ran by the Crestview bench, Bowen, accidentally on purpose, dropped his pens on the playing floor at the feet of the referee who quickly blew his whistle to remove the debris. Bowen’s ploy allowed the Crestview players to enter the game, if only for a few seconds. But years from now those young guys will be able to relate to their kids and grandkids they were on the floor when Crestview captured its first state championship. Nice move Dave!
It’s hard to believe I am finishing my fourth year writing these columns during the basketball season. Thanks again to Jim Krumel, Jim Naveau, Tom Usher and Mike Purdy for their help. But mostly thanks to you, our readers.
Bob Seggerson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org