Boys basketball: Powell leads LCC back to state

Mar. 19—LIMA — Lima Central Catholic coach Sean Powell still calls it "the road to Columbus."

That might be because the 1999 Shawnee grad grew up watching area teams battle it out for the right to play at St. John Arena or the Schottenstein Center on the final weekend of the high school basketball season.

But Dayton is a familiar place for Powell, who led Botkins to its first boys state basketball championship in 2021.

One month later, Powell took the job as head coach at Bath where he spent two seasons. On May 5, 2023, he became LCC's third head coach since 1978, joining Bob Seggerson and Frank Kill in that elite club.

Now, in just his sixth season as a head coach, Powell has LCC (26-2) riding a 15-game winning streak heading into this weekend and just two wins away from its fourth state championship since 2010.

"I knew the rich tradition that LCC had when I took this position," Powell said. "I knew there would be a lot of pressure to go far in the tournament and win games, but in my sixth year, I felt like I was ready for that. I knew I was getting a great group of kids, so I thought getting into the winning spirit wouldn't be hard."

LCC's start to the year might have been better than its first-year head coach could have imagined.

The T-Birds won 11-straight games to open the season, including a 56-54 win over Ottawa-Glandorf, a team that'll make its fourth consecutive trip to the state tournament this weekend in Division III.

Getting wins over the Titans and cross-town rival Lima Senior are moments that Carson Parker, LCC's 6-foot-3 senior leader, refers back to as key moments of preparation for the postseason.

"Those big games (in the regular season) with sold-out crowds and where every bucket, every rebound makes the place go nuts. That's something that's prepared us for these big tournament games," he said. "We know when things aren't going our way and the other crowd is cheering, we can lean on all five of us to make plays and reverse that momentum. When we make the extra pass, we all trust each other to hit a shot down the stretch."

Parker and Powell also pointed to the support they've received from LCC fans and the surrounding community as something they've leaned on all season.

"The LCC fanbase is ridiculous, man," Powell said. "Every day I have to turn my phone off just to get a quick nap in because I'm constantly getting text messages. When I first got hired, I received text messages as far west as California and as far east as Vermont. It was crazy. It felt like when I actually won the state title (at Botkins). I feel like we always have the better crowd. It was that way at the district tournament, and it was the same way in Bowling Green."

LCC treated those fans to a dominant 65-44 win over Old Fort and a thrilling 63-60 victory over Toledo Christian, a team that was on a 22-game winning streak, this past weekend at the regional tournament in Bowling Green.

Jordan Priddy, one of two sophomores in the starting lineup, had the highlight of the night in Friday's championship game when he broke a press with 18.1 seconds left and successfully converted a three-point play, putting the game just out of reach for the Eagles.

Priddy has provided instant offense all season alongside sophomore running mate Willie Foster (11.2 points per game) in the starting lineup. Both players were named to the first team in District 8.

In his first season at LCC, Priddy has displayed a calm demeanor and the skill of a crafty veteran while averaging a team-high 16.2 points per game, including 41 percent shooting from three-point range.

"He's played a lot of basketball in his life," Powell said of Priddy. "He plays AAU when he's not playing school ball, so you're talking about a kid who's probably played his 1,000th game so far. The big stage might give him a few jitters early, but as the game goes on and he builds up a sweat, he calms down."

For Parker, Billy Bourk and Demarr Foster, the starting five's three seniors, this journey started much earlier.

Before they joined forces, Bourk and Parker competed against and beat Foster's team in the fifth-grade tournament. Bourk says it's something he never lets Foster live down, but from that point on, they've been happy to share the court as teammates instead of competitors.

"From sixth grade on, it's definitely been a brotherhood," Bourk said. "It's really special. I can always trust that if I'm doing something wrong, these guys will let me know about it and it's vice versa. We know when we get on each other, it's for a good reason. We know the end goal is to win."

Foster, who's suffered two knee injuries since his freshman year, called the feeling of going to the state tournament "surreal."

"Those boys (Bourk and Parker) got me to come to LCC back in sixth grade," Foster said. "I never wanted to come to LCC, but I'm glad I did. And for me, and everything that I've been through, it just means a lot to do it with my brothers."

LCC's first game in Dayton is at 10:45 a.m. on Friday against Berlin Hiland. The winner plays in the Division IV state championship game at 10:45 a.m. Sunday against the winner of Richmond Heights and Russia.

Powell preached that keeping a consistent approach with his team will be the main key to success at the state tournament.

"Day one of practice is exactly like tomorrow's practice," he said. "We're not changing anything. If we're in the gym at practice and things aren't perfect, meaning our guys are unfocused, then we'll run. It's just about being the same. As long as I'm the same, then these guys have room to grow as athletes."

For Carson Parker, LCC's trip state is a full-circle moment. It's about living out a dream that he's had since elementary school.

"It started when we were in second grade. We were 8 years old, and we were ball boys for this program until we were in eighth grade, so we saw the tournament runs in '14, '15 and '16. When you're a part of that at such a young age, it becomes a dream. It doesn't feel real at times, but now we have two more (wins) to go. That's the way I feel. We need two more (wins) and we have one more net to cut down."

Reach Chris Howell at 567-242-0468 or on Twitter at @Lima_Howell