BOWLING GREEN — The second half has been kind to the Centerburg boys basketball team throughout the tournament. The Trojans had used strong second halves to win several games in the sectional and district tournaments.
But, Wednesday in the regional semifinals against Lima Central Catholic, the second half turned into a nightmare.
The Thunderbirds went on a 24-9 run in the third quarter that blew open a close game and went on to a 72-53 victory in the Division III regional semifinals at Bowling Green State University’s Anderson Arena.
“That (the third quarter) was the key. They just beat us down the floor. Defensive transition, we just didn’t get back and they got a lot of layups,” said Centerburg coach Jim Simpson. “That third quarter did it. I think that was the game. I thought we played well and felt very confident about the second half. But, we came out and missed shots, they got the ball and they beat us down the floor.”
The game was still in hand two minutes into the second half when Skyler Simpson hit a 3-pointer to pull Centerburg within four at 38-34. But, that’s when the wheels fell off for the Trojans (20-5).
Lima Central Catholic (20-4) went on an 11-0 run that blew the game wide open.
“They (Centerburg) played hard and battled us for the first 16 minutes, but I felt our athleticism and depth wore them down,” said LCC coach Bob Seggerson. “We made a break in the third quarter they could not come back from.”
The Trojans missed two free throws, but the main culprit in allowing that run was four straight turnovers. Those turnovers led to easy Thunderbird buckets and the rout was on.
“Transition defense really hurt us. It hurt us in the first half and we talked about it at halftime. Mental lapse, I guess. It was a huge run for them,” coach Simpson said. “I felt real good. We were within two, four, six points. I felt that was right where we wanted to be. I thought if we kept it close toward the end of the game, I thought we had an opportunity to pull it off.
“Their shots were falling and ours weren’t. We weren’t getting any second shots. They kept us off the boards. They played a better game than us tonight. Are they a better team? I can’t honestly say that. But tonight they were.”
LCC’s pressure defense gave Centerburg some fits early on, but the Trojans were still able to stay in the game, thanks to the play of Collin Bumpus and Brandt Lambert. Bumpus hit three 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes of the game and Lambert had three nice drives for buckets to offset seven early turnovers by the Trojans.
Leading by one point (25-24) midway through the second quarter, things started to go south for the Trojans. They made just 1 of 6 shots down the stretch in the second quarter as LCC grabbed a five-point lead at intermission (34-29).
“We made adjustments (defensively) as the game went on. Even though we’re young, we’ve started playing smarter defensively. We make adjustments on the floor to take away a player,” Seggerson said. “Good defense, that’s our calling card. Defensively, as a team, we make you work hard to score. I thought we did that well tonight.”
The Birds were pretty sound offensively, as well, Wednesday. They hit on 27 of 49 shots from the field (55 percent) for the game, including an impressive 16 of 27 (59 percent) in the second half. They also outrebounded the Trojans, 31-20, on the night, pulling down 12 offensive rebounds.
“I know they’ve got people who can shoot the ball. We just wanted to contest shots. When they did shoot the ball, we weren’t contesting their shots. They were getting long rebounds. We just weren’t getting the ball,” Simpson said. “I thought that (12 offensive rebounds) was big. We gave them a lot of second opportunities the entire game. Whether it was offensive rebounds or driving to the bucket. We let them score every possession down the floor and that’s going to add up quick.
“They played well. They’re a good basketball team. We got beat by a team that could possibly win it all. It was one of those nights that went well for them. To get that, they have to make it. They made it happen tonight. They made us have some trouble inbounding the ball, put some pressure on some of our better shooters. We couldn’t get any shots off.”
Centerburg hit more than its share of shots, as well (20 of 38), but getting off 11 less shots than LCC and turning the ball over 17 times were tough obstacles to overcome.
Lambert led the Trojans as he finished the night hitting on 8 of 11 shots en route to 22 points. Bumpus added 12 points on 4 of 5 shooting from the field, including three 3-pointers, while Skyler Simpson had 12 points and five rebounds. T.T. Thompson handed out four assists for the Trojans.
“I thought Collin Bumpus stepped up tonight. He really kept us in the game,” coach Simpson said.
The Thunderbirds had four guys in double figures, led by Desi Kirkman, who had 16 points. Bubba Krieg added 14 points and five assists, while Sam Stolly and Billy Taflinger had 10 points each.
LCC will advance to the regional finals where it will play Plymouth, a 42-37 winner over Archbold.