Centerville coach, son make 2nd trip to state tournament

Centerville sophomore point guard Gabe Cupps during a game earlier this season. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED
Centerville sophomore point guard Gabe Cupps during a game earlier this season. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

Centerville head coach Brook Cupps and his son, sophomore point guard Gabe Cupps, are making their second trip to the state tournament.

The coach remembers the first one well, but the son not so much.

Cupps coached at Graham from 2001 to 2012 and led an unbeaten team to the Division II final four in 2008. When the Elks won the regional title last Saturday, Cupps’ wife posted a photo on Instagram of 4-year-old Gabe asleep on her lap at the Schottenstein Center at Ohio State.

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When the Elks got on the bus Saturday night to return home from Cincinnati, Coach Cupps pulled his phone out of his bag and was greeted by numerous texts from players on his 2008 final four team.

“I think about those guys a lot, and I got so many text messages from Saturday night to Monday,” Cupps said. “That’s been cool to hear from those guys. I didn’t realize how many of them actually followed us. They’re all watching the games.”

Graham faced Toledo Libbey at state and future Ohio State star William Buford. The Falcons trailed by three with 1:30 left and lost 51-44. Buford scored 21 points and played every minute.

“We had chances, but they were really good,” Cupps said. “That was a great game.”

Big-shot House getting healthy: Centerville leading scorer Tom House’s season almost ended in the regional semifinal when an Elder player rolled up on his leg and hurt his left knee. House returned to that game but was limping badly afterward with a big ice pack.

Cupps said House played at about 70 percent against Moeller, but he was feeling good enough to hit a long 3-pointer for the game-winner in the final seconds after the Elks patiently looked for a good shot.

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“We didn’t get the right look that we wanted, so we just kept moving it until we needed to put up a shot,” House said. “We needed to shoot so if we missed, we had a shot at a rebound.”

Rich Rolf started the final sequence with a skip pass to Gabe Cupps in the right corner. Cupps then touch-passed to House, who took the open shot beyond NBA 3-point range.

“Tom didn’t hesitate,” Brook Cupps said. “It was deep, but for me, Tom shooting that and Tom shooting on the 3-point line, if it’s in rhythm, it’s the same shot.”

House didn’t practice anything more than shooting Monday and Tuesday but worked his way into more action as the week progressed. “It’s all right,” he said. “It’ll be fine.”

Playing at home: Centerville and Chaminade Julienne are happy the state tournament is at UD Arena. The Eagles face Columbus St. Francis DeSales in a Division II semifinal at 11 Saturday. The Elks face Mentor in a Division I semifinal at 5.

“It’s going to be nice and intense, and I’m happy about still being able to play,” CJ senior Daniel Nauseef said.

CJ senior AJ Solomon knows the arena well. His dad Anthony Solomon is a Dayton assistant coach.

Brook Cupps said the only odd thing will be that the arena won’t be packed like it has been so many times over the years for district and regional games.

“I think UD’s one of the best arenas,” he said. “Just the way the arena’s configured and how close the seats are to the floor, I think it makes it much better than the Schott. It’s too stretched out.”

CJ finds a way: COVID-19 shutdowns have affected most high school teams and some more than others. In the first half of December, CJ went 22 days between their first and second games. The Eagles had another 22-day break between games through mid-January. They played their fifth game on Jan. 19 and 14 regular-season games.

“These guys have been so great at dealing with adversity and when we don’t play well and not worrying about it and going out and playing the next day, not feeling bad for ourselves when we have Covid breaks or we have bad breaks,” CJ coach Charlie Szabo said. “They just come back and play. It’s a great compliment to this group of kids that they could do that this season.