Springfield’s Catholic Central won state title game 20 years ago today

Twenty years ago today, the Catholic Central High School boys basketball team captured the Division IV state championship, beating Van Wert Lincolnview 75-52 on March 23, 1996.

The team included star player Jason Collier, who went on to play for Georgia Tech and the Atlanta Hawks before his death in 2005 at the age of 28 from an enlarged heart.

Check out the game story from the News-Sun archives the following day:



By Dave Long

COLUMBUS — Nothing is missing from Jason Collier’s high school basketball career.

“Now I’ve got everything I wanted,” said the 7-foot center as he coddled the Division IV State championship trophy he and his Springfield Catholic teammates had just won. “This was what I wanted. What we all wanted. We worked so hard to it. Now everything is perfect.”

Springfield Catholic won its first small-school title Saturday night defeating Van Wert Lincolnview, 75-52, before 12,712 fans at Ohio State’s St. John Arena.

The Irish came to St. John Arena last year and left with the runnerup trophy after losing to Findlay Liberty-Benton, 70-51.

Not being a champion ate away at Collier all season as his individual honors piled up - Ohio’s Mr. Basketball, the only player from the state to be selected to play in the McDonald’s national all-star game, and one of six finalists for the Naismith Award given to the outstanding high school player in the country.

But he could never call himself a State champion - until Saturday night. “The individual stuff is great, but I don’t get it without my teammates,” he said. “The State championship is all we talked about and dreamed about for a year. Now we finally have it.”

Lincolnview came into the game 26-0 and ranked No. 1 in the final state regular season ratings. Springfield Catholic was No. 2 with a 24-3 mark. There was never much doubt which team was No.1.

With Collier controlling the middle on defense and Jason Ronai and Jon Powell raining down three-point shots, the Irish took a 28-17 second-quarter lead.

Lincolnview didn’t get to be No. 1 by quitting. With 6-3 guard Bradon Pardon draining threes from NBA range, the Lancers eventually took a 40-37 lead with 4:31 left in the third quarter.

Springfield coach Tony Riccuito had seen enough. He began running different individuals at Pardon every three minutes. “We figured if we did our job on defense the offense could take care of itself,” said the 6-6 Powell who took his turn at Pardon.

The move worked. Pardon got one basket the rest of the night during a 21-point performance - five for nine from three-point range. Springfield went on a 29-2 run which left no doubt it would finally collect a State championship after second place finishes last year and in 1990.

Collier, the MVP of the tournament, had 22 points and 18 rebounds. Ronai had 18 points and seven assists while Powell had 6 points. All three were on the all-tournament team along wih Pardon and Shawn Thatcher of Lincolnview and Randy Ensley of Dalton.