CENTERBURG — The Centerburg Trojans have been able to score points all season long. It’s been the clutch performances of late, however, that has everyone taking notice.
Senior guards Lyle Lindsey and T.T. Thompson have flown under the radar of most teams as the focus is usually on Brandt Lambert and Skyler Simpson, but that is fine with them. Entering tonight’s Division III Regional Semifinal against Lima Central Catholic, both players don’t mind not having the spotlight shining brightly on them because both know their roles on this team.
For Lindsey, this year is the culmination of a journey. He dreamed of it as a child, which makes it all the more special.
“I started playing in the fourth and fifth grade,” said Lindsey. “I was into basketball, but I didn’t really start to get good until my freshman year. I used to go outside all year-round, even in the freezing cold. I was crazy about basketball; I would even commentate on myself.
“Basketball is everything I’ve ever lived for. It is all I’ve wanted to do; it’s been my dream.”
Dream or not, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Lindsey. A decision to step away from his Centerburg teammates after his freshman year almost cost him his dream.
“I quit my sophomore year because I didn’t think I was getting what I deserved,” said Lindsey. “I was really frustrated. I went and played in the Mount Vernon (YMCA) League. I was getting 30 or 40 points a game, but it didn’t really mean anything. I came back to the school team and played jayvee my junior year. That was my penalty for quitting. ... It was hard last year, but I guess I got what was coming to me. I’ve just tried to make the best of what I have, and it makes this so much better. Being on varsity is great; I just love playing with everybody.”
Thompson, a multi-sport athlete, also grew up on the court, but basketball has only recently begun to grow on him.
“I’ve been playing basketball for as long as I can remember,” said Thompson. “There is not a year that I didn’t play if I could. Even my seventh-grade year, I didn’t play the first week, but I ended up going back to it. ... Basketball has become one of my favorite sports. I like football, but we didn’t have much success.”
Thompson starts at point guard for the Trojans, while Lindsey is the first player off the bench. Both players know their roles, and that has led to some pretty special results.
“I look at myself as a spark plug,” said Thompson. “I’ve got to keep everyone fired up and keep the crowd into it. My role isn’t really a scorer; we have other people to do that. I think my role really is to keep our players into the game, and provide a spark by finding the right guys.”
“It used to bother me because I didn’t get why I didn’t start, but now it doesn’t really bother me,” said Lindsey. “Now I don’t think I would really want to start because I like my role. You don’t see many guys coming off the bench and putting up numbers. It gives me more confidence; I don’t get nervous. I just try to pick up where everybody is and excel even more.
“I’m always looking down the bench at coach, waiting to go in,” Lindsey added. “When I go in, I want to bring that spark that the team needs. I know I’m in there to create offense for people and create some for myself. ... Coming off the bench, I just want to get everyone going. I have to be ready to play.”
Over the last few weeks, Lindsey has shown time and time again how he can take over a game. He has bailed out the Trojans on more than one occasion
“The things he does coming off the bench are amazing,” said Thompson of Lindsey. “Coming off the bench is probably the best thing for him because he doesn’t let anything get in his head. He just comes out and plays the game that he loves. I love playing with him because he can make a play. We have a lot of guys that can do that, but if there is a 3-pointer that we need, I’m getting the ball to Lyle.”
Playing on a team with two 1,000-point scorers and a sharpshooter like Lindsey, Thompson is content with playing a supporting role. While he can shoot the basketball, he is just as happy to get an assist. That hasn’t stopped coach Jim Simpson from requesting a little more offense from Thompson, however.
“My first option is definitely to pass; I like to feed people the ball because everybody on this team can shoot,” said Thompson. “If I need to step it up offensively, I can, but I am more looking to dish the ball off. ... Coach definitely wants me to shoot more. Last year, I was the sixth man and filled Lyle’s spot. That’s why he is always on me to shoot and drive more, but I’m OK with just passing it too.”
Twenty-four games into the season, these players know what it takes to win. They are not about change anything now.
“Coming from the jayvee to varsity, I felt like I needed to do everything,” said Lindsey. “I was forcing up some shots. Since then, I’ve learned a lot. I’m extremely comfortable now. I feel like everything is coming to me.”
“This means the world to me,” said Thompson. “We’ve always been excited for this year, and the success we’ve been having is what we’ve been waiting for.”