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Boys Basketball: Strong finish against Marion Local sends Lima Central Catholic to regional

Mar. 9—WAPAKONETA — Lima Central Catholic had the lead for only 5 1/2 minutes of the last 30 minutes in its 41-35 win over Marion Local in the Wapakoneta Division IV boys basketball district championship game Friday night, but they were the most important 5 1/2 minutes.

After looking up at the scoreboard and seeing Marion Local with leads as big as six, seven, and finally eight points throughout the first three quarters, the Thunderbirds finished strong to claim their district championship.

LCC (24-2) will play Old Fort (21-5) at 8 p.m. Tuesday in a Division IV regional semifinal at Bowling Green State University's Stroh Center.

The LCC-Marion Local game was billed as a match-up of LCC's quick three-guard offense against Marion Local's twin towers, 6-9 Jack Knapke and 6-8 Austin Niekamp, who were as advertised in the early going.

But it was combining seven 3-pointers — four of them in the first quarter — with that inside game which allowed Marion Local (12-14) to get ahead and keep LCC on upset alert deep into the game.

"To start the game we came out a little flat and they came out lights out," LCC's 6-5 center Billy Bourk said.

Marion Local led 19-16 at halftime and had its biggest lead of the game, 30-22, with three minutes left in the third quarter after Grant Kremer connected on a three-pointer.

But LCC cut the Flyers' lead to 30-27 at the end of that quarter on back-to-back buckets by Bourk and DeMarr Foster's free throw.

That was the beginning of a 19-5 run for the Thunderbirds in the game's last 10 minutes, which included holding Marion Local to one point in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter.

LCC regained the lead for the first time since the opening minutes of the first quarter when Carson Parker hit two free throws to make it 33-31 with 5:32 to play.

But it was Jordan Priddy's 3-pointer to increase the lead to 36-31 with 2:40 left in the game, which had the same kind of devastating effect as an explosive play for a touchdown in football. It was a big sign LCC now had things under control.

"Oh, man. That three was huge," LCC coach Sean Powell said.

Priddy, a 6-2 sophomore who led LCC with 14 points, said, "Once that shot hit the whole atmosphere changed, the momentum shifted, and then we knew from that point on it was our game.

"That felt amazing. That whole possession my hands were twitching. I was feeling for that shot. Once it hit my hands it was money."

Bourk said, "We held the ball and all of a sudden we got it to Jordan and he takes that shot and this place erupted. That was really a huge momentum shift for us. It was big time."

Parker said, "It was huge. We'd had the ball for about two minutes. Our fans were into it. We hit that to cap it off. It couldn't be much better than that."

Marion Local coach Kurt Goettemoeller made it unanimous. "That was huge," he said.

LCC never went away from its defensive game plan of focusing on Knapke but was much more effective in the second half than in the first two quarters.

Knapke had five of his eight points and seven of his eight rebounds in the first half and Niekamp scored eight of his 10 points before halftime.

"We stayed with the game plan to focus on Knapke and if they were going to hit the threes we were going to settle for that," Powell said. "We knew they were going to have to knock those down for 32 minutes in order to beat us."

A big part of the difference was that Bourk was in early foul trouble in the first half but was able to stay on the floor in the second half.

"Knapke is a big strong kid but Billy Bourk has a motor that is unmatched. We knew over time with his energy Billy could wear Knapke down a little bit and then we could focus on the perimeter. Kudos to Billy down there and his teammates who helped on Knapke," Powell said.

Parker said the Thunderbirds "crashed hard" whenever Knapke or Niekamp got the ball in the second half.

"The first quarter they came out and hit every shot. We knew it would slow down. So we knew once it started slowing down they would start to feed the big guys. Every time they fed them we would crash hard and make every shot they had to shoot as hard as could be," he said.

LCC starts three seniors and two sophomores. DeMarr Foster, one of the seniors, said, "This means a lot, just to come out here and win with my brothers. No words. No words. For us seniors this means a lot. And for Coach Powell it means even more. I'm so happy."

Lima Central Catholic 41, Marion Local 35

Score by quarters:

LCC 10 6 11 14 —41

Marion Local 15 4 11 5 — 35

LIMA CENTRAL CATHOLIC

Carson Parker 8, DeMarr Foster 5, Billy Bourk 6, Willie Foster 8, Jordan Priddy 14. Totals: 16-8-41.

MARION LOCAL

Austin Niekamp 10, Mitchell Ranly 8, Jack Knapke 8, Kyle Otte 3, Daniel Everman 3, Grant Kremer 3. Totals: 13-2-35.

Three-pointers: LCC — Priddy 1; ML — Niekamp 2, Ranly 2, Otte 1, Everman 1, Kremer 1.

Records: LCC 24-2; Marion Local 12-14.