COLUMBUS, OH – Hundreds of schools began the 2015-16 OHSAA boys basketball season with hopes of hoisting the State Championship trophy but only four were successful in their quest that ended inside the Value City Arena on Saturday.
The opening contest saw the Lima Central Catholic Thunderbirds (28-1) capture their 3rd state title in school history as they were victorious in the Division 3 Finals against Cleveland Villa Angela St Joseph 66-44.
In earning the crown this season the T-Birds avenged a loss to VASJ in last seasons final game and gave Head Coach Frank Kill his second championship as the teams mentor.
LCC Senior Tre Cobbs who finished just 2/9 and with 5 points in the loss to the Vikings last season accounted for 24 of his teams points this time around on 9/14 shooting (4/5 from 3), in addition to snagging 6 rebounds. Dantez Walton, a Senior headed to play at Northern Kentucky University pumped in 20 points and pulled down a game high 11 rebounds. Ethan O’Connor’s 11 points helped to pace the Thunderbirds against the VASJ attacking defense.
Gene Higgins was the lone scorer in double figures for Villa Angela (23-6) on the afternoon as he finished with 15 points on 5/14 shooting.
Complete box score: LCC vs VASJ
Game two of the afternoon session featured the Akron St. Vincent St. Mary Fighting Irish, ranked #3 in the final Associated Press poll of the season taking on the top ranked school New Concord John Glenn for the Division 2 title.
While SVSM was struggling to connect from the field in the first half, John Glenn continued to light up the Ohio State University scoreboard as they built a 15-7 lead after the opening stanza.
Things didn’t get much better for the Irish in the second quarter either as they finished the period 6/27 and limped into the lockerroom trailing 34-23 and with one of their leading scorers in Jayvon Graves 0-11 with just a pair of markers from the free throw line.
In the second half Graves would connect on 7/13 opportunities from the field and finish with 18 points on the night but it was not enough to counteract the John Glenn second half scoring output and the Irish would be defeated 76-72 despite making it a close game in the waning moments of the fourth quarter.
John Glenn, who was honored by the presence of their namesake before the contest finishes the season at 28-1 while SVSM ends at 26-4. The Muskies were led in scoring by Drew Rackley who finished with 25 points in the game.
Northwest Conference Champion Lincolnview, making their first State Finals appearance since 1997 took on Cornerstone Christian in the third game of the night and fell to the Patriots 74-52.
The Lancers fell behind early to the running game of Cornerstone Christian and trailed 19-12 at the end of the opening eight minutes of play. Lincolnview mustered just six points in the second quarter against a tenacious Patriots defense led by Michael Bothwell who finished with a team high 14 points.
Trailing by as much as 26 late in the 3rd quarter, the Lancers were able to cut their opponents lead down to 18 but not any further despite outscoring the Patriots 19-11 in the games final quarter.
Cornerstone Christan finished the year at 17-12 and with a title in their first trip to Columbus while the Lancers season came to an end at 27-2. Both Lincolnview losses on the season came to teams who finished as State Champions as their only other loss came to the Division 3 Champion LCC Thunderbirds.
Trevor Neate led all scorers in the game with 16 points for the Lancers while Bothwell and Jeremy Owens tallied 14 apiece for Cornerstone in the victory.
In one of the most anticipated matchups of the tournament the Lima Senior Spartans, making their 5th appearance in Columbus took on the Wildcats of Westerville South.
South jumped out to a 19-12 advantage after the first quarter as the Wildcats connected on a trio of triples. Lake Erie signee Jordan Humphrey gave his team a 22-12 lead in the opening moments of the second period with the fourth three point goal of the half.
Lima Senior would respond however in the second quarter behind Xavier Simpson, Rico Stafford and Ruben Flowers to cut the halftime lead to 31-28 with Flowers connecting on a putback as the buzzer sounded and the clock ran out.
With future OSU Buckeye Kaleb Wesson on the bench after committing his third foul of the game early in the third he was sent to the bench for South. In the time the 6’9 Junior was on the pine the Spartans took over behind Flowers and used a 15-14 scoring output to climb within two of the lead 45-43 heading to the final stanza of the season.
Through the first three quarter Ruben Flowers had connected on all seven of his shot attempts (5 field goals and 2/2 free throws).
Wesson picked up foul 4 early on in the fourth quarter and was again sent to the bench to not end his penultimate season by fouling out, but it was then his brother Andre who gave his team a 53-51 lead by connecting on a deep three pointer and forcing a Senior high timeout with 2:30 remaining.
Rico Stafford’s layup with :28 seconds remaining tied the game at 55-55, but Jordan Humphrey put Westerville South on top for good with a runner in the lane to procure a 57-55 victory and the State Championship in Division 1.
Lima Senior (29-1) was led in scoring by Mr. Basketball Xavier Simpson who finished with 17 points while Flowers (12) and Stafford (10) joined him in double figures.
Westerville South (26-5) was led in scoring by Humphrey who led all scorers with 19. Andre Wesson was the only other player in double figures for his team as he finished with 14 on 5/10 shooting.