Centerville boys “pick up the winning mojo” for the Elks’ girls

Unable to attend the earlier Centerville girls basketball game, senior Ryan Marchal and the Elks boys team hunkered down in a school bus en route to the University of Dayton Arena and tuned in to a live internet broadcast.

The Elks boys had their own Division I district final to chase three hours later on Saturday afternoon. As if it were needed, the team absorbed extra incentive after the Elks girls were eliminated in a D-I regional final.

“We felt we had to pick up the slack,” said Marchal, a difference-making senior guard for the Elks. “We had to pick up the winning mojo for them.”

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Centerville’s boys did just that, mounting an early double-digit lead and holding off Mason 49-43 in one of four boys D-I district finals at UD.

Centerville’s girls, the last area D-I team still playing, were knocked off the tourney trail by big-school state power Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame in a regional final at Fairmont’s Trent Arena, 70-63.

Already an established Greater Western Ohio Conference power in most girls and boys sports, it was a rare Elks basketball doubleheader showing this deep into the postseason. The only thing that could have been better for the Elks was for the boys team to be there for the girls.

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“I was checking on Twitter,” Centerville boys coach Brook Cupps said. “I was really hoping we could go and take our guys. Our guys are good friends with them and I have a lot of the girls in class. I’ve got a lot of respect for what (girls coach) Adam (Priefer) does. We wish we could have been there to support them because it would have been a neat experience.”

Instead, it’s the Centerville boys who will take a 17-game win streak to Xavier University’s Cintas Center at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Centerville (21-5) will play the Springfield/Elder winner in the second game of the D-I regional semifinals. The 6 p.m. opener is defending state champ Moeller (25-0) vs. the Fairmont/Lakota East winner. Moeller flattened Winton Woods 57-15 in Saturday’s opener.

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Marchal ran Centerville’s offense to perfection. He had a game-high 22 points, converted 8 of 10 free throws, hit two 3-pointers, had two assists and two steals.

“Ryan was really good, especially scoring, which is something we needed,” Cupps said. “Good point guards do that. They figure out what the game needs and they give you that.”

Jason Sneed added eight points for Centerville. Emerging 6-foot-9 center Mo Njie had just four points, but snared eight rebounds to go with four blocks and a shot-altering defensive presence.

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Landen Long had 12 points to lead Mason (18-5).

Centerville’s girls pounded MND 70-56 in a road blowout nearly two months ago in the regular season. The Cougars used their superior height advantage for some regional payback.

Centerville (25-3) was led by freshman Cotie McMahon’s 20 points and 12 rebounds. Sophomore Amy Velasco added 16 points and senior Alexis Hutchison 13. It was the fifth time Centerville advanced to a D-I regional and like those other appearances, the Elks are still seeking their first state trip.

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“They used their height advantage against us,” Preifer said. “We didn’t have any answers for that. We battled, we just couldn’t get some shots to fall and some breaks to go our way.”

Julia Hoefling, a 6-foot-1 center who signed with Loyola University Chicago, wrecked the Elks by converting 9 of 10 close-range shots for a game-high 23 points.

“Regionals is a big deal,” Cupps said. “It’s hard to get there. You think, oh, yeah, they’ll get there next year. You just never know.”

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