COLUMBUS – Roger Bacon boys’ basketball coach Brian Neal knew Lima Central Catholic had a very good basketball team.
But, Neal was a little bit shocked when the Thunderbirds went ahead 10-0 at the 4:51 mark of the first quarter on Thursday afternoon.
“I felt really good going into the game,” Neal said. “I felt like it was our time. We had been playing really, really well.”
The Spartans were playing their best basketball of the season this month. But Lima Central Catholic has the duo of senior point guard Tre Cobbs and senior wing Dantez Walton (Northern Kentucky University signee).
Walton scored 30 points and pulled down 11 rebounds and Cobbs had 20 points, five assists and two steals as Lima Central Catholic defeated Roger Bacon 74-56 in a Division III state semifinal at the Schottenstein Center.
Lima Central Catholic (27-1) plays Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph (23-5) in the Division III state final at 10:45 a.m. Saturday.
All was not lost for Roger Bacon despite the early deficit. The Spartans called a timeout and closed the gap quickly with an 11-0 run to lead 11-10 at the 1:57 mark.
“We found a groove a little bit there,” Neal said. “We played a good 12-minute stretch there. Unfortunately that was about the only good stretch we played.”
The Thunderbirds extended the lead to 11 points (30-19) at the 2:01 mark of the second quarter and led 32-25 at halftime.
Cobbs had 12 points, three assists and two steals by halftime. Walton had 11 points and five rebounds.
Neal said it was a matter of “pick your poison” with both Lima Central Catholic players making an impact.
The teams exchanged quick baskets early in the third quarter, but the Thunderbirds made three 3-pointers and led 50-33 entering the fourth quarter.
“I thought in the second and third quarter we went after them and really wore them down,” Lima Central Catholic coach Frank Kill said.
Thursday was a rematch of the 2014 Division III state semifinal in which Lima Central Catholic won 63-44.
Neal said he didn’t know what to tell his team in the locker room after that 2014 loss. On Thursday, he said he could sleep well knowing the Spartans gave it their all.
“You got to do something that most kids don’t get to do,” Neal said. “And life goes on. That’s the reality. Life goes on. This is a game. Yeah, we work really hard at it and want to do our best.”
Roger Bacon was led by junior guard Justin Johnson with 16 points while junior forward James Johnson had 14 points.
Seniors William Greene and Elijah Fulton said they were proud to be a part of the Spartans this season. Roger Bacon played a tough schedule all season and won the regional championship over Summit Country Day before making the Spartans' fifth state tournament appearance.
“We are really unselfish players,” Fulton said. “We wanted the ultimate goal which was to get a state ring and unfortunately that didn’t happen this year. But, we made our way through the playoffs and knocked out team by team. We came up short but I think next year we will have another shot at it. We (Greene and Fulton) are seniors but…the team will be back because we have a bunch of guys who are unselfish and that is our goal – to make it back up here every year.”
Roger Bacon (21-8) – Greene 2 0 5, James Johnson 4 3 14, Justin Johnson 7 2 16, Fulton 4 0 9, Pfriem 3 3 9, McGee 1 1 3. Totals: 21 9 56
Lima Central Catholic (27-1) – Cobbs 7 3 20, Taflinger 1 0 2, Dixon 1 4 6, O’Connor 5 1 12, Walton 12 4 30, Bradley 1 0 2, Williams 1 0 2. Totals: 27 14 74
3-pointers: R 5 (James Johnson 3, Greene, Fulton). L 6 (Cobbs 3, Walton 2, O’Connor).