Boys basketball: LCC embraces the target

Jan. 2—LIMA — The target is back at Lima Central Catholic, and the Thunderbirds couldn't be happier.

LCC beat previously unbeaten Ottawa-Glandorf on its home court on Saturday afternoon, 56-54, on Willie Foster's drive to the basket in the closing seconds. Now the T-birds know they're the team to beat in the area.

"I love it because in junior high, we were always that team with the target on our backs," said Carson Parker, a senior forward with the T-birds. "These last three years, we've dealt with injuries and some other stuff. It's a lot of fun to get that target back on our back, knowing every game that we're the team to beat."

The Thunderbirds have a proud basketball tradition, with nine trips to the state basketball tournament. They had a three-year stretch of making it to the state championship game, winning state titles in 2014 and 2016. They'd suffered a bit of a downturn since then, including an 11-13 season last year.

That stumbling appears to be in the past, though, and the Thunderbirds (7-0) are looking for better things. They're just learning how to play together after a late start caused by the LCC football team's success. The football team advanced to the regional semifinals with several starters from the basketball team playing on the gridiron too.

"For us, we got our football players about a week before our first game," LCC coach Sean Powell said after the win against Ottawa-Glandorf. "For them to go out there and execute in a hostile environment like that is amazing this early in the season. We still have a lot of work to do."

Powell, a Shawnee graduate, has enjoyed great success in his first year with the Thunderbirds. He replaced a successful coach in Frank Kill, who decided to resign after last season. Powell previously spent two years coaching Bath after winning a state championship at Botkins in 2018.

LCC has four players averaging double-figure production so far this year. Jordan Priddy, a sophomore, leads the way with 20.2 points per game, including 14 against the Titans on Saturday.

Willie Foster Jr., a sophomore, had a breakout game against O-G, scoring 26 points and boosting his season average to 16 points per game. He hit 58% of his shots in the victory, often driving to the basket with authority.

"I was going all game; I was feeling it," Foster said after that game. "All my hard work and dedication paid off. You just have to live in the moment. Every time I shoot the ball, I know it's going in."

Parker averages 12 points per game, while DeMarr Foster, a senior, averages 10 per game.

Add to that the rebounding prowess of senior Billy Bourk, who averages 8.5 rebounds per game this year, and you can see reasons for optimism from the undefeated Thunderbirds.

"You hear people talk a lot about team rebounding," Bourk said. "It all comes down to five guys boxing out and crashing the board. I just happened to be on the good end of it. If everybody boxes out, the ball is going to bounce to somebody. You just have to be in the right spot for it."

They're still learning who they are as a team, but thus far the results have been spectacular. They'll continue to have big games along the way, playing the difficult schedule of an independent, including games at Elida on Jan. 20 and at home against Lima Senior on Feb. 17 for the Lima Cup. From there, there's no telling how far they can go in the Division IV tournament.

"This was a tournament-type atmosphere," Powell said after the win against Ottawa. "So to have one of those types of things under our belt is just sort of a big step that we can continue to grow."

Reach David Trinko at 567-242-0467 or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.