CENTERBURG — The Centerburg High School boys basketball team has been tested all season long, passing nearly all with flying colors. The Trojans have a few more finals to take, however, if they was to earn an A-plus as their final grade.
Tickets on sale
CENTERBURG — Tickets for the Centerburg Regional Semifinal game will be on sale today until 3 p.m., and on Wednesday from 7 a.m. to noon at the high school office and the elementary school office. A portion of ticket sales made at Centerburg will be retained by the school. Tickets will cost more at the game site. For more information contact athletic director Jim Stoyle at 625-6328.
Centerburg faces the Lima Central Catholic Thunderbirds in a Division III Regional Semifinal at Bowling Green State University on Wednesday night, a test that surely won’t be easy. The winner advances to the regional final on Saturday, while the loser goes home to stay.
The Thunderbirds (19-4) are a strong basketball team, winning 16 in a row coming into the regional. they defeated two of the state’s top teams — undefeated Liberty-Benton and Ottawa-Glandorf — to reach this point. Both wins avenged earlier losses this season.
“They are a good basketball team; they do a lot of things real well,” said Centerburg coach Jim Simpson. “They are physical, but I think that is a situation that benefits us because we like to play that way a little bit. They are quick, but the way I look at it is by the time you get to regionals, everybody is going to be good. And they are going to be facing a good team in us too. We matchup OK with them, so it could be an interesting game.”
Centerburg, meanwhile, enters the game with a 20-4 mark after beating Bloom-Carroll, 49-46, in overtime to win the Central District title.
Lima Central Catholic, a perennial contender, won the Northwest Conference with a perfect 9-0 mark this season, but everything wasn’t perfect for the Thunderbirds, who started the season with a 3-4 mark. They are 8-1 at home, 8-2 on the road and 3-1 on neutral courts this season.
“They started off slow, but they’ve gotten better and better,” said Simpson. “They had some success during football and that may have set them behind; I don’t know. I do know they are playing better right now, and I think we are playing better right now. It is just going to come down to who is playing the best Wednesday night.
“The league they play in is pretty good, and there are three or four really good teams,” said Simpson. “The competition is pretty strong for them, and they all play pretty good defense. I’ve only, personally, got to see them play once, but we’ve scouted them two or three times. From what we’ve seen, they are a good team, but nothing really surprises me this time of year. There wasn’t a team that they’ve blown out, and there wasn’t a team that blew them out. All of their games have been pretty close.”
The Thunderbirds are averaging 59.3 points per game this season, including 53.7 points a game in the tournament. They have good size — five players over 6-foot — and, like Centerburg, have many different weapons. Sam Stolly, a 6-5 senior, Tyler O’Conner, a 6-4 sophomore, and Jon Steiger, a 6-4 junior, provide a solid foundation to combine with guards Desi Kirkman, Bubba Krieg.
“I think we’ll match good with them because all of their guys can’t be in the game at the same time,” said Simpson. “They have a 6-foot-5 kid that likes to play outside more, and they have another 6-4 or 6-5 kid inside, so they have good size. At the same time, we are not short. With our guards we’ve got some taller guards, including Brandt. He is tall for a guard. Then we’ve got Skyler, who is 6-7, and Drew Osborne is 6-2, but he has defended most of the big guys we’ve faced. I think we will be OK. We’ve faced teams that looked like mismatches, but we were able to beat them down the floor.
“Both teams have kids that can shoot the ball outside, and they have kids that can’t shoot the ball outside. They are better taking the ball to the hole, so we’ve got to make sure we guard everything,” Simpson added.
“They have a lot of experience; They’ve been around the game,” Simpson continued. “They are athletic, and can go seven, eight and maybe nine deep. They are the type of team that can do a lot of things, but we’ve faced teams like that all year. We can do a lot of the same things. Hopefully, we are doing the things that we need to do best at this time of year.”
Playing at Bowling Green State University will be a new experience for the Trojans. Simpson took his first walk-through on Sunday, and likes what he saw.
“What I liked about it is the fans are right down on top of you,” Simpson said. “That makes the game more exciting. It is going to be loud. It is an old arena, so the atmosphere is going to be pretty neat up there. People in that part of Ohio live for basketball, so I expect a crazy place. I think our fans will jump right in, which will make it a great experience for everybody.”
Tip-off for Wednesday’s game is set for 6:15 p.m.