LIMA — Lima Central Catholic head coach Frank Kill said last year he enjoyed a dream season and will cherish the memories of winning a state championship.
But with a new season comes a new reality as Kill goes into the 28th annual Mercy Health Elida TipOff Classic with essentially a brand new team and only one player back who saw significant time on the team that went 28-1.
Kill said the mantra for this year’s team is not how the team starts but how the team finishes.
Senior Thomas Williams, who was the first or second player to come off the bench, is the lone returner with any significant amount of playing time last year. Kill will rely on senior returning letterwinners Stephen Taflinger and Anthon Venturella and juniors Mark Janowski, Matthew Cecala and Brendan Stolly.
“What we want to do is continue to build and we have put a schedule one through 22 of the toughest games we could possibly play to prepare for the tournament and if we develop as a team and get better as individuals in the end we should be pretty successful,” Kill said. “I think a lot of people are counting us out but I know I have 15 players and five coaches that truly believe in each other so we know that Lima Central Catholic basketball has been very successful and we want to continue that.”
Kill said during the offseason he has seen these players work hard and dedicate themselves to getting better, however, a go-to guy has not been identified and he adds that is a work in progress. Kill added that because they faced their talented seniors who graduated that they are not going to face a team this year that was better than last year’s squad.
“That starting five is the greatest in school history,” Kill said. “They competed every day in practice against those guys and now they have to go out and believe in themselves. I think a lot of these kids have worked really hard to put themselves in position.”
But practice is one thing. Playing in front of crowds against more experienced teams at the varsity level is another.
Kill will get his first glimpse of how the T-Birds will perform under these conditions Friday against Shawnee and because the T-Birds are not part of a conference, the T-Bird head coach sees each game as preparation for the sectionals.
“At the end of the day we just want to get better and we have done that through the offseason,” Kill said. “I want to see how we play in front of the brighter lights. Some of these kids have never played at the varsity level. It means guys are going to have to step up and be big boys. Bigger crowds and brighter lights.”
Being defending state champions and blowing out a number of area teams in the last three years means the T-Birds will have a huge target on their backs and Kill said the players will have to endure teams seeking a little pay back.
“We’ve addressed that,” Kill said. “We are defending state champions and in the last three years we have lost only eight games and so there are a lot teams looking to pay us back. But at the end of the day we have to make sure we take care of our own business and if we play to our potential then good things should happen for us.”
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on twitter at @JoseNogueras1