Catholic Central seniors — ‘a special group’ — eye return trip to regionals

Irish face New Miami on Friday night in Division IV district finals

Upon arriving at Catholic Central High School three years ago, Irish coach Cody Sarensen was quick to teach his players about the tradition-rich basketball program.

He gave them a history lesson about the school’s success, bringing back several alumni to talk about their experiences at Catholic Central.

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“Part of that message was to help these guys understand they had the potential to do something pretty special,” Sarensen said.

The message was heard loud and clear by his seven seniors, who will graduate as one of the winningest classes in school history.

The Irish (21-3), who finished the season ranked seventh in the Associated Press Division IV state poll, will play New Miami (16-9) in a district final game at 9 p.m. Friday at the University of Dayton Arena. It’s their first return trip to the district finals since 1996 and 1997.

The Irish senior class – Jayden Borden, Sabien Doolittle, Trey Dunn, Mykah Eichie, Peyton Harris, Chandler Impson and Casey Kampman – have won 59 games in the last three years, including back-to-back Ohio Heritage Conference South Division titles.

“It’s a special group, for sure,” Sarensen said.

The team’s chemistry has been years in the making. They’ve known each other since elementary school, playing basketball and baseball together. In fifth grade, the majority of the seniors played together on the Springfield Beasts.

Kampman has been attending Central since preschool. Dunn began attending Catholic Central in third grade, while Eichie arrived in fifth grade and Doolittle followed in sixth grade. Borden came to the school in eighth grade.

The team won back-to-back Ohio Heritage Conference championships in middle school, setting the bar high when they hit high school.

“We knew after seventh grade our group was going to be special if we stayed together,” Doolittle said.

Doolittle, Dunn and Eichie have all played varsity since their sophomore year, when they won 15 games in Sarensen’s first season as head coach.

Harris spent his first two seasons at Columbus Westland before he moved back to Springfield. It was a no-brainer to join his old Beasts teammates at Catholic Central, he said.

The Irish advanced to the D-IV regional semifinal last season, falling to eventual state champion Marion Local.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” Harris said.

Borden mostly played junior varsity his first three seasons, but joined the starting lineup this winter, seamlessly transitioning into one of the team’s key defensive players.

Kampman is the team’s sixth man. He came up big in the sectional final victory against Emmanuel Christian, hitting several big shots while filling in while his teammates struggled with foul trouble.

“At first it was crazy because it was such a big game, but eventually everything slowed down and I started to play my game and do what they needed me to do,” Kampman said.

The six seniors are typically the only players who see the floor throughout the game, meaning it can be difficult if they get in foul trouble. Impson has been out all season with an injury.

“We’ve got faith in each other,” Borden said. “We just try to stay poised and keep going.”

While the seniors have accomplished a lot in their careers, they don’t want the season to end anytime soon.

“We’re playing every game like it’s our last,” Doolittle said. “We all have a goal – we want to get to state. We want to be better than were last year and we lost to a team that won state (in Marion Local). We’ve got a chip on our shoulder. We wear ‘Unfinished Business’ on our hoodies for a reason. We feel like we still have something to prove.”

First, they’ll have to get past a young, scrappy New Miami squad who is back in the districts for the first time since 2003.

“It’s going to come down to the stuff we’ve been working on all year, keep the guy in front, make sure we box out and take care of the ball,” Sarensen said. “It’s nothing too special. For both of us, it will take some time to get adjusted to the court, to the lights, to the depth (at UD Arena). I’m sure it’ll be kind of ugly in the first few minutes, but hopefully with our experience and senior leadership we have, hopefully we can make the right decisions to get a win.”

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