Central Catholic's Gaylon Hughes, right, fights for possession with Lima Senior's Isiah Simpson.
Central Catholic staggered through its Three Rivers Athletic Conference meeting with Lima Senior on Friday night at the Sullivan Center.
The Irish appeared disinterested or distracted. It's not known if sugar plums were dancing in their heads.
Yet, Central did just enough to come away with a 58-53 victory over Lima Senior.
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Central coach Jim Welling watched a game in which the Irish (4-1, 3-1 TRAC) won, despite being outhustled by the Spartans (2-4, 1-3) for much of the night.
"I thought Lima Senior played with a sense of urgency," Welling said. "I thought their kids played with great effort and fought for 32 minutes.
"You've got to give Lima Senior credit for their tenacity and what they do, considering they don't have one player over 6-foot-1."
Deontae Cole, the Irish's 6-4 junior, provided the offensive punch for Central and pumped in a team-high 19 points, including a pair of 3-pointers that came in the third quarter when the Irish went up by as many as 11 points.
Keith Towbridge also scored in double figures, finishing with 12 points. Towbridge, who is also a 6-4 junior, scored eight of his points in the third quarter.
Two straight baskets from Towbridge with under a minute to play in the quarter gave Central a 42-31 lead over Lima Senior. The Irish closed out the period with a 44-34 lead and appeared in position to finally shake off a sluggish performance. They seemed on course to run away from the Spartans.
That proved to be further from the truth as Lima Senior scrapped its way back into the contest in the fourth quarter and pulled to within two points of Central with less than a minute remaining in the game.
Lima senior guard Tyler White, who finished with a game-high 21 points, sank a pair of free throws to cap a 12-4 run by the Spartans and trail 55-53 with 37.3 seconds left in the game.
Cole was fouled and made 1-of-2 free throws to give Central a 56-53 lead with 26.5 seconds to play, the Spartans were still in a position to cut into the Irish's lead or even tie the game.
However, Lima's Isiah Simpson rushed a 3-point attempt from 30 feet that clanged off the rim with 15 seconds remaining. Central came up with the long rebound and Cole was fouled and went to the line, sinking two free throws with 13.7 seconds left in the game to secure the victory.
Lima Senior coach Shawn Allen credited his team for fighting back after falling behind by double digits to Central.
"This was as hard as we've played in the last week," Allen said. "There are no moral victories and I understand that, but I'm happy with our kids' effort. You get that effort every night, then I can address some of the basketball issues.
"Down the stretch we just didn't make many shots."
Simpson finished with 14 points and Jerry Hutchins added 12 for the Spartans.
The Irish took a 26-20 lead over the Spartans into halftime.
Cole and Bussey scored six points apiece in the first half for Central.
However, the Irish could have easily took a much larger lead into the third quarter had they taken better care of the basketball and also made the most of foul shot opportunities. They were guilty of 10 turnovers in the first half and were 6-for-10 from the foul line.
Lima Senior struggled even more shooting the basketball and also had trouble taking care of the basketball against the Irish's pressure defense.
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @demmonsblade
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