COLUMBUS — Bob Seggerson has won 515 games during a stellar coaching career. He swears he’s not haunted by a handful of the 209 he’s lost.
Seggerson, in his 32nd year as a head coach, will again bring Lima Central Catholic to the state tournament. Maybe things will be different this time. Maybe his Thunderbirds will catch a break. Maybe they’ll be the team lifting the biggest Division III trophy at the end.
“Maybe the gods of basketball will smile (on us) this time,” he said.
Seggerson and the Thunderbirds are due, that’s for sure.
They open the 88th annual tournament on Thursday morning when they meet Chesapeake in a semifinal at Ohio State’s Value City Arena. Both teams are 21-4.
“Go ahead, pick a dead scab,” Seggerson said with a laugh when asked about the toughest of his defeats at past state tournaments.
But joking doesn’t erase the pain of several ill-fated, star-crossed losses that have denied LCC and Seggerson a state championship.
“No, I have not forgotten them. I try not to sit around and think about it too much but I think the thing that people don’t get about it is that, they’re really not nightmares,” he said. “Of the games that we played at state, I would say every one of them we really played well. We were prepared, we were passionate. We got after it. We just didn’t get plays at the end, or didn’t get a break at the end.”
LCC lost the 1989 and 1994 state championship games by two points each. In the 1994 game, Mr. Basketball Aaron Hutchens, who would go on to a glittering career at Marquette, missed several one-and-one situations down the stretch.
In the 1993 semifinals, the Thunderbirds had a seven-point lead in the final minute and led by a point with 5 seconds left before a controversial foul call resulted in a loss to Berlin Hiland.
In their most recent trip to the state’s final four, LCC led 50-49 with 18.1 seconds left in the 2000 Division III semifinals. But All-Ohioan Adam Stolly had gashed his knee while being fouled and a rule — since changed — required that a bloodied player had to leave the game until the next stoppage of play. Seggerson had to send in a cold kid from the bench and he missed the front end of the bonus situation. A Jamestown Greeneview player then hit a jumper with 11 seconds left and the Thunderbirds turned it over on their final possession, the latest in a series of heartbreaks.
“I think we lost five games down there by a total of eight points,” Seggerson said. “Well, that’s tough. But it also means we’re a tough out. We get down there and we play hard, we get after people and that’s what we’re going to try to do this time. We’re going to prepare, we’re going to come down and play well, and just hope that that’s enough.”
Orrville (20-5) meets Columbus Ready (19-6) in the other Division III semifinal.
After that, Dayton Dunbar (23-3) takes on Cleveland Benedictine (22-4) and Port Clinton (25-0) plays Zanesville (17-6) in Division II semifinals.
Friday’s schedule finds Newark Catholic (24-1) tackling Toledo Ottawa Hills (24-1) and Dayton Jefferson (15-10) meeting Bedford Chanel (14-11) in Division IV. Mentor (23-3) meets Cincinnati Moeller (21-4) and giant-killer Gahanna Lincoln (26-0) — which shocked defending champion and USA Today No. 1 Columbus Northland in the regional title game — takes on Massillon Jackson (23-2) in Division I.
Finals are on Saturday.
Games all three days are at 10:45 a.m. and 2, 5:15 and 8:30 p.m.
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