CENTERVILLE – Pushing the pace, shooting 3-pointers in transition and playing offense like there’s a 24-second shot clock did not used to be in Centerville’s basketball DNA.
But with sophomore guards like Gabe Cupps and Emmanuel Deng and junior wings like Tom House and Rich Rolf, the Elks are willing to play fast and take advantage of what a defense gives them.
“As a high school coach you have to adjust to your personnel,” Centerville coach Brook Cupps said. “I just think that’s the best thing for the guys that we have, getting them out in the open floor. We’ve got guys that can make plays in space.”
To see how well your team can play fast, the best thing you can do is play a team like Trotwood-Madison. Under Rocky Rockhold, the Rams play a frenetic pace on both ends of the floor with the goal of throwing the opponent into chaos.
“Trotwood’s one of my favorite teams around here because of the way they play and the toughness their kids have,” Cupps said. “They just keep coming at you.”
On Tuesday night, Centerville remained calm in the chaos and dominated the second half to defeat Trotwood 89-71 after leading by one at halftime.
Cupps said the best thing his team did offensively in the second half was attack Trotwood’s full-court press and double-teams by advancing the ball up the floor with passes.
“The willingness to go make those plays and throw it ahead and run the floor allows you to get some easy buckets that maybe you don’t get if you’re slowing it down,” Cupps said. “Tonight it was good.”
Gabe Cupps led the Elks (11-3) with 23 points, House had 19 and Rolf 18. Cupps made three 3-pointers and House made five.
“We just didn’t do a good job defensively,” Rockhold said. “We gave up too many curl cuts and backdoor cuts. Ball pressure was not good and Centerville converted.”
While playing fast on offense, the Elks needed to slow down the Rams in the second half. Anthony McComb led an 18-8 run to close the half and cut the Elks’ lead to 40-39. McComb scored 27 of his 36 points in the first half. He sat out most of the third quarter in foul trouble while the Elks built an insurmountable lead.
Coach Cupps said it was important to keep the Rams out of the lane. “I thought really the key to the game was trying to contain [McComb] and Carter (Mims),” he said. “For the most part we did OK with them.”
The Elks have played a difficult schedule and should be rewarded with a good seed this Sunday in the Division I tournament. Their losses are to state powerhouses Cincinnati Moeller, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and GWOC rival Miamisburg.
“My dad tries to do it every year to give us a hard schedule throughout the regular season to get us ready for tournament time,” Gabe Cupps said. “And make sure we’ve seen every style.”
Trotwood (6-2) didn’t start its season until January. It feels more like December for them.
“This is the time to get consistent,” Rockhold said. “Sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and we forget that we’re eight games in. Tonight was a tough loss and we hope we can pick ourselves up and go from there. I like the fight we have, and I think that’s going to pay dividends come tournament time. So I wouldn’t bet against the Rams come tournament time.”
Two important fixes by tournament will be better rotations on defense and more ball sharing on offense.
“The ball’s getting stuck in our guards’ hands a lot,” he said. “Our fast break is ineffective if we’re just going to dribble the air out of that thing. I genuinely felt like tonight that’s what we did.”