Above, St. John’s Eric Clark puts up a shot into the block of an LCC defender in a game at Robert A. Arnzen Gymnasium Sunday. The Thunderbirds won the contest 56-48. (Times Bulletin/Tom Morris)
Above, St. John’s Eric Clark puts up a shot into the block of an LCC defender in a game at Robert A. Arnzen Gymnasium Sunday. The Thunderbirds won the contest 56-48. (Times Bulletin/Tom Morris)
BY JIM METCALFE

Times Bulletin Correspondent

sports@timesbulletin.com

DELPHOS - St. John's and Lima Central Catholic have been involved in many classic boys basketball struggles over the many years of their archrivalry.

Sunday afternoon at Robert A. Arnzen Gymnasium was another in the series.

The Thunderbirds were just too quick and athletic for the Blue Jays to handle as the T-Birds grabbed a 56-48 victory.

"That kind of speed, quickness and athleticism is difficult to simulate in practice. They can make it very difficult for your offense," St. John's coach Aaron Elwer noted. "We shoot for 12 turnovers or less as a goal, and our first eight games we were under that figure. Part of our turnovers was their quickness and part of it was being a little loose with the ball. We will focus on that in practice this week."

LCC head man Frank Kill gave a lot of credit to his defense.

"They were hurting us with penetration the first half. We went to a 3-2 zone the second half to try and force them to the perimeter. We also tried to simply take the ball out of (Curtis) Geise's hands," he explained. "He is one of the better players in our area and he will get his points. We just tried to force him to give up the ball and make others beat us over the top. Forcing turnovers really helps us offensively because we're getting transition looks or free throws."

The rivals traded the lead three times in the opening period as both were looking to push the tempo. LCC (10-1) used some full-court trapping pressure to try and get the pace faster, while the Jays (6-3) used their matchup zone to try and slow down the quick visitors. St. John's senior Geise netted 10 of the team's 13 first-period points, while six different LCC players scored at least a bucket. They took the lead at 8-7 on a follow shot by Jake Williams at 3:20 and led 14-10 on a three-point play by Trey Cobbs at 49.8 ticks before Geise buried a trifecta from the left wing with 33 seconds left to reduce the deficit to 14-13.

Senior Ryan Buescher gave the Jays the lead again early in the second period with a triple and his trio gave St. John's another three-point lead. Their last lead was 20-18. Tre'on Johnson fired in a three-ball at 3:25 to give LCC the lead at 21-20 and the visitors built their lead to a 27-21 edge on an inbounds layup by Darius West. Two Geise singles at the 25-second mark reduced that to 27-23.

The offenses slowed down in the third, with each team getting off seven shots. The Jays had the better of the proceeding in the first half of that quarter, tying the score at 29 on a Geise jumper. West's freebie gave the guests a lead they would not relinquish and they slowly built a 37-32 spread on a layin at the horn by Sam Huffman.

Try as they might, the Jays simply could not find the needed spark for a rally in the finale. They could only hit 6-of-14 shots in the span. St. John's also struggled with six huge turnovers, several leading to baskets or free throws at the other end. The closest they could get was five four times. LCC was 6-of-10 from the field and 7-of-12 at the line in the finale.

LCC finished with 27 boards and 15 fouls.

St. John's totaled 9-of-12 at the line (75 percent), 19 boards and 16 fouls. They host Minster at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

"Curtis and Ryan are our two main guys and they scored all but one of our 23 points the first half. Obviously, they made adjustments at the half to try and slow them down," Elwer added. "That meant that we need our other three guys to step up and make some big plays. Again, that will be a continued focus for us."

In junior varsity action, Nick Taflinger's 13 and 12 by Dantez Walton paced LCC to a 54-32 victory.

Sophomore Alex Odenweller topped the Jays with 11.

LIMA CENTRAL CATHOLIC (56)

Xavier Simpson 2-3-7, Jarren Crawford 0-0-0, Sam Huffman 1-0-2, Tre'on Johnson 4-1-10, Martyce Kimbrough 2-2-7, Trey Cobbs 1-3-5, Darius West 6-2-14, Jake Williams 4-1-9, Tom Judy 0-0-0, Cory Stewart 1-0-2. Totals 19-2-12/21-56.

ST. JOHN'S (48)

Andy Grothouse 1-0-3, Ryan Buescher 4-1-12, Eric Clark 3-0-8, Ryan Koester 1-1-3, Curtis Geise 6-5-18, Evan Hays 0-0-0, Tyler Conley 0-0-0, Seth Bockey 1-2-4. Totals 9-7-9/12-48.

Score by Quarters:

Lima CC 14 13 10 19 - 56

St. John's 13 10 9 16 - 48

Three-point goals: Lima Central Catholic, Johnson, Kimbrough; St. John's, Buescher 3, Clark 2, Geise, Grothouse.