By Mike Miller – email@example.com
Now the Thunderbirds hope it can lead them to a state championship.
The Thunderbirds have swept aside five-straight tournament opponents, holding them to an average of 35.4 points per game thanks to their outstanding man-to-man defense.
That defense is their pride and joy; they wear white practice jerseys with a red “D” over their heart that emphasizes the fact they take their defensive prowess to heart.
“I always compared working under coach (Bob) Seggerson to like working with a mound of clay with each team, and we formed our identity with our defense.” LCC coach Frank Kill said. “We have dictated the tempo the last five games. It’s a cliché, but defense wins championships. It has been the cornerstone of our program at LCC. If we can play together the entire time, we will be hard to stop.”
The T-Birds are led in scoring by 6-foot-1 guard Tre Cobbs, who averages 19.5 points per game.
“First and foremost, we want to finish with the first-place hardware,” Cobbs said. “I feel blessed and thankful for this opportunity. We are prepared for everything and feel like our defense fuels us, and if we can keep our defense up we can be successful.”
Dantez Walton, at 6-foot-6 and committed to Northern Kentucky, is second in scoring for LCC at 18.4 ppg.
“It feels good, and this time we need to wrap it up and seal the deal.” Walton said. “We preach defense, and we practiced it and got better. I know if I help out, someone will pick up my man, and that prepares us for game situations.”
Josh Dixon, a 5-11 guard, is contributing 9.6 points per game.
“It’s a wonderful feeling, and we feel we are kind of used to the bright lights and are ready for the big show,” Dixon said. “We don’t care who we play. If we play defense like we know we can, we will be OK. We must play defense as a unit.”
Nick Taflinger adds 7.4 ppg for the Thunderbirds.
“I’m really excited about getting to the Schott (Schottenstein Center), I feel blessed and hope we can come out on top, unlike last year,” Taflinger said. “We struggled a little early in the year, but during this tourney run our defense has been there night in and night out.”
Ethan O’Connor rounds out the T-Birds’ starting lineup and chips in with 6.1 points per game.
“We take our defense to heart every day in practice, and games are just like we play in practice,” O’Connor said. “Our defense helps our offense. The last two years have been special, but this year we are going for the gold.”
The T-Birds enter the state tournament as the No.1-ranked Division III team in Ohio. The only blemish on their record is a two-point loss to undefeated Lima Senior, who will joining them in Columbus and playing for the Division I title.
“It’s not just about basketball. I love these guys. I hang out with them all the time, and I’ve been around them for four years now,” Kill said. “I’m in this situation only because of these kids.”
With four starters and their sixth man back from last seasons’ state runner-up team, the T-Birds were expected to be very good. Anything short of a trip to the state tournament would have been considered a disappointment.
“With four starters and our sixth man returning, we were supposed to follow up our success from last year.” Kill said. “We look forward to the challenge.”
The T-Birds will open their quest for a state title at 2 p.m. Thursday when they take on Cincinnati Roger Bacon (20-7) in semifinal action.