GAHANNA — Goal No. 2 is now accomplished for the Centerburg boys basketball team.
The Trojans set several goals for this year and had already met their first one — winning the Mid-Buckeye Conference. On Friday, the Trojans achieved the second — winning a Division III sectional title and moving on to district play.
Centerburg used a strong defensive effort and worked the game plan to perfection Friday in beating Africentric, 59-44, at Gahanna-Lincoln High School.
“We controlled the tempo, made them shoot from the outside and controlled the boards. And, we found a way to put someone away,” said Centerburg coach Jim Simpson.
The first part of the game plan worked to perfection early on as Africentric couldn’t get the ball inside, forcing up shot after shot from the outside. The Nubians (6-14) hit just 3-of-14 shots from the field in the first quarter as Centerburg (18-4) took a 10-7 lead.
Africentric got it going in the second quarter, scoring the first six points of the quarter to take the lead. But, Centerburg rode its big guy inside — 6-foot-7 post Skyler Simpson — back into the lead. Then, one of the smaller guys on the court — 5-9 junior guard Lyle Lindsey — put a dagger in the Nubians’ back. Lindsey drained a long 3-pointer as time was expiring in the first half and sent an excited Trojan team into the locker room with a six-point lead, 19-13.
“Tell me that wasn’t a huge lift. That kid (Lindsey) comes up with something great every game,” coach Simpson said. “I thought that was a big basket, probably the turning point (of the game).”
Africentric tried to mount a comeback early in the third quarter, as Kalomo Figueroa-Jackson hit two straight buckets, including a 3-pointer. But, the Trojans went back inside to the big man to take back control. Skyler Simpson had seven points in three-minute span that put Centerburg on top by six again at the end of three quarters.
“I really thought Skyler was a force in the paint tonight,” Simpson said of his senior post player who pulled down 12 rebounds to go along with his 13 points.
The Trojans iced the game in the fourth quarter with defense and a strong showing at the free-throw line. Africentric scored just five points in the first five minutes of the fourth and Centerburg hit on 12-of-14 shots from the free-throw line in the quarter. The Trojans finished the night hitting an incredible 22-of-24 free-throw attempts.
Centerburg struggled a bit early with the pressure defense of the Nubians, but were able to figure out a way to beat it and got several easy baskets in the second half.
“I thought we got better as the game went on. We were able to adjust to their pressure and got better and some good shots,” Simpson said.
Brandt Lambert led the Trojans with 15 points, including 7-of-7 from the free-throw line. He also had seven rebounds. Drew Osborne added 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field, while Lindsey had 12 points. The Trojans also got some strong play off the bench from Devon Moreland, who pulled down some key rebounds.
“Devon always does a good job. He was very good coming in tonight. We did not lose a beat,” coach Simpson said. “All our kids played hard tonight. They’ve got to be tired.”
Africentric was led by Figueroa-Jackson, who had 10 points, but it was on 4-of-15 shooting. The Nubians’ top scorer — Marquice Taylor — had just seven points on 3-of-18 shooting from the field.
“I really feel we got them (Africentric) frustrated. They kept trying to do more than they were capable. We forced them to do more than they wanted to,” Simpson said.
The Trojans will now look for the third goal — a district title. They’ll take on Cardington, a 65-58 winner over Fairbanks on Friday, in the district semifinals Tuesday. The two teams met earlier in the year with Centerburg winning, 75-63. The game will be played at the Columbus Fairgrounds Coliseum at 8 p.m.
“Tell me they don’t want us. We beat them earlier this year and I’m sure they remember it. It’ll come down to who plays the best that night,” Simpson said.