Multiple Teams · Two Lima News Stories On T-Bird Victory!!

LCC wins semifinal, returns to state championship

Multidimensional T-Birds too much for Roger Bacon

By Tom Usher –

Lima Central Catholic’s Dantez Walton dunks against Roger Bacon during a Division III state semifinal Thursday at Value City Arena in Columbus. 
COLUMBUS — First, there was Lima Central Catholic’s Tre Cobbs attacking the rim.

Then, came LCC’s Dantez Walton firing 3-pointers and slashing his way to the basket.

With Ethan O’Connor on the inside, it was way too much for Roger Bacon to defend.

LCC rolled to a 74-56 victory over Roger Bacon in the Division III boys basketball state semifinals Thursday at Ohio State’s Value City Arena.

LCC (27-1) advances to the D-III state championship game against Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph (23-5) at 10:45 a.m., Saturday, at Ohio State. It will be the third straight year the two teams have met for the state title, with VASJ winning the title last year, while LCC won it in 2014.

Roger Bacon (21-8) lost to the T-Birds 63-44 in the 2014 state semifinals.

“Unfortunately, it played out about the same as it did the last time we were here,” Roger Bacon coach Brian Neal said.

The 6-foot-5, Northern Kentucky-bound Walton finished with 30 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. He hit 12 of 19 from the field and was 2 of 4 on 3-pointers. Cobbs had 20 points and was 3 of 6 on 3-pointers.

“Tre’s ability to get up and down the floor, then to have a guy like Dantez who can go inside and out, it makes it hard for us to be defended,” LCC coach Frank Kill said.

Ethan O’Connor added 12 points and three rebounds, hitting 5 of 6 from the field. Thomas Williams had two points and eight rebounds.

“It was a matter of pick your poison,” Neal said. “We wanted to protect against the drive, but Tre (Cobbs) is very good at creating contact. So we back up a tiny bit and they start making threes. Those two guys are as dynamic as two players as we’ve played all year. They both had a good game today and unfortunately we didn’t do enough to slow them down.”

Justin Johnson had 16 points, while James Johnson had 14 for Roger Bacon.

LCC ran out to a 10-0 lead, with Walton getting six quick points. But Roger Bacon came right back with an 11-0 run to pull ahead 11-10.

LCC then took the lead to stay, 13-11, with 1:42 left in the first quarter on a Walton 3-pointer. LCC led 17-13 after the first quarter.

The Spartans got within 17-15 early in the second quarter before LCC ripped off a 10-2 run to pull out to a 27-17 lead. During that run, Cobbs scored on a 3-pointer, a fast-break layup, a driving layup and a free throw.

“Good things happen when Tre’s going 94 feet shooting layups,” Kill said.

The T-Birds also went from their man to a 3-2 zone in the second quarter, which slowed down the Spartans.

“I thought it was a different look (to go zone),” Kill said. “I wanted to slow things down for a bit because it was getting super fast for a while. It was literally layup, layup. It was kind of a layup drill and I didn’t like it. It forced our guys to get back instead of just matching up.”

LCC led 32-25 after three quarters.

The T-Birds outscored Roger Bacon 18-8 in the third to make it 50-33 after three quarters.

Cobbs took a late headbutt to the forehead, but said he was ready to go after the game.

“Everything’s fine,” he said.

In the final 2:20, Walton threw down back-to-back monster dunks, one on a baseline drive, the other on a breakaway. The second made it 68-51 with 1:50 left.

“It looked like he was running out on me and he was coming too fast, so I went baseline,” Walton said. “And Tre just found me for my jump shots. That’s the 1-2 punch that we have.”

LCC won the boards, 32-29. LCC shot 52 percent from the field and was 6 of 14 on 3-pointers. Roger Bacon shot 42 percent from the field and hit 5 of 20 on 3-pointers.

Walton has been thinking of Saturday’s finals since LCC lost to VASJ in last year’s state title game.

“Our job’s not finished yet,” Walton said.

Naveau: Experienced leaders set pace for LCC

By Jim Naveau –


Lima Central Catholic’s coach Frank Kill sported “T-Bird red” pants for Thursday’s Division III semifinal against Roger Bacon at Value Center Arena in Columbus.

Click here to see more photos from LCC’s state semifinal victory.

COLUMBUS — Before the basketball season started, LimaCentral Catholic coach Frank Kill knew who his best players were.

What he wanted to know was who would be the Thunderbirds’ leaders.

It turned out, they were the same people, as illustrated when Dantez Walton (30 points, 11 rebounds) and Tre Cobbs (20 points, 5 assists) led LCC to a 74-56 win over Cincinnati Roger Bacon in a Division III boys basketball state semifinal on Thursday.

“For the last two years they were kind of the Indians. These are my chiefs now,” Kill said about Walton and Cobbs after LCC advanced to the state championship game for a third consecutive year, where it will play Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph for the third season in a row.

LCC won the state title in 2014 and Villa Angela-St. Joseph was last year’s winner.

“It was something we had a conversation about, where were we going to find our leadership,” Kill said.

“Over the summer Tre took a lot of time to reflect after he had shoulder surgery. He worked really hard to get back to where he was. The whole time I think he has tried to understand his role on this team,” he said. “And Dantez is a natural-born leader.”

Walton shared Player of the Year honors on the Division III All-Ohio team and Cobbs was also on the first team.

Six of LCC’s top seven players are seniors. Four of them (Ethan O’Connor, Nick Taflinger, Cobbs and Walton) have played in three state tournaments and a fifth, Josh Dixon, has been in the starting lineup the last two state tournaments.

O’Connor scored 12 points against Roger Bacon and the six seniors in the top seven accounted for 72 of the Thunderbirds’ 74 points.

“I give a lot of credit to my seniors because we really rely a lot on what they do at both ends,” Kill said.

“I have four seniors who have played on this stage for the last three years and five who have played the last two years. It’s pretty special to be able to end your senior year on the biggest stage of your high school career,” he said.

“I wouldn’t be in this position without the five, six seniors who play and Thomas Williams. They play so unselfishly.”

Walton said, “Kill took Tre and me this summer and told us we had to step up. I believe we did that so far. But our job is not finished here.”

Cobbs said two previous trips to the state tournament made a difference for LCC’s veteran players. At least it did for him.

“This year just feels more special. I’d already been here so nothing was brighter. I was used to it. It was just another game,” he said.


Fashion competition: Villa Angela-St. Joseph coach Babe Kwasniak wore red shoes on the sideline for his team’s 81-64 win over Lynchburg-Clay, but Kill topped him with a new pair of bright red pants.

Kill acquired the new pants on Sunday at K&G Fashion Superstore in Columbus after an Ohio High School Athletic Association meeting for coaches and athletic directors of the schools in the state tournament.

In 2014 and 2015, Kill wore a three-piece suit to coach in the state tournament but thought it was time for a change.

“I thought I might as well go with something bold. This time I was going with something more casual. They’re T-Bird red,” he said.

Kill said he found the store on a recommendation from Lima City councilman Jesse Lowe.

“He came to my house one day for a garage sale and I inquired where he did his shopping. He sent me down here to Columbus and I’ve been shopping here ever since. It’s a big guys store, too,” he said.

Mr. Basketball advice: Twenty-two years ago LCC assistant coach Aaron Hutchins was in a similar position to Lima Senior’s Xavier Simpson when he was named Mr. Basketball the same week the Thunderbirds played in the state tournament.

Simpson became the fourth player from Lima to become Mr. Basketball on Wednesday.

Hutchins said he didn’t think being Mr. Basketball adds any pressure to playing in a state tournament.

“Not really. You still try to play your game,” he said. “I’d tell him to go out and play his own game. He got this far by playing his own style of play. I’d say play hard. You’ve got 32 minutes, go hard.”

Good genes: Alonzo Gaffney, a 6-foot, 7-inch freshman center for Villa Angela-St. Joseph who scored 11 points against Lynchburg-Clay, is the son of former University of Cincinnati player Kevin Gaffney.

Kevin Gaffney was a first-team Division I All-Ohio Player in 1979 on a first team that included Clark Kellogg, John Paxson and LaSalle Thompson.

Kwasniak compared Gaffney to Carlton Bragg, a Villa Angela-St. Joseph standout who is a freshman at Kansas.

“At this age he’s better skill-wise than Carlton was,” he said.