Centerville dials long distance in rout of Lebanon

Centerville guard Donnie Shelton acknowledged he hasn’t always had the strongest outside shot.

So, for four years, the senior has been a card-carrying member of the Elks’ “Breakfast Club,” a program designed to let Centerville hoopsters hit the hardwood every day at 6 a.m.

Centerville coach Brook Cupps said fans may not have noticed immediate results from the morning hours his players invested, but over time, a difference may be seen.

Shelton gave credence to his coach’s words, cashing in two 3-pointers while leading Centerville (9-5, 4-2) with 11 points during the Elks’ 51-29 rout of Lebanon (10-4, 3-4) at home in a Greater Western Ohio Conference crossover matchup Friday night.

The first possessions of the contest set the tone when Lebanon failed to convert right around the rim and Centerville responded by knocking down a 3-pointer in transition.

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The shot would be the first of seven 3-pointers the Elks would make. Junior Ryan Marchal made three shots from beyond the arc while Shelton and junior Matt Pearce had two each.

Lebanon’s first point didn’t come until Zach Huffman hit a free throw with 16.1 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Centerville ended the opening stanza with a 14-1 lead. The Warriors’ first field goal wouldn’t come until 37 seconds ticked off the clock in the second period.

Lebanon coach Kevin Higgins believes his team missed shots that typically fall, but he also knew Centerville’s defense was on point.

“We didn’t finish shots around the rim we probably should have, but they played really good defense,” he said. “They were just a more physical, competitive team. That’s as simple as it gets.”

Centerville set up its perimeter game by way of hulking post players Jevon Henderson and Sam Vance. Both are listed at 225 pounds, while Henderson is 6-foot-3, and Vance is 6-4.

Henderson added eight points and seven rebounds for the Elks.

“Jevon passes the ball so well in the post. He’s a really tough matchup because he’s so physical when you’re hitting him and there’s contact,” Cupps said.

Centerville could be even tougher around the basket with the emergence of 6-foot-8 sophomore Mo Njie, who tied his season high with seven points against the Warriors.

“I was really pleased with our bigs,” Cupps said. “In and out, our bigs are aggressive at catching and scoring and creating shots for other guys.”

Lebanon, which still holds a half-game lead over Miamisburg in the National West, shot 31 percent from field, with Brendan Lamb leading the way with 11 points. The Warriors’ top scorer on the season, Harrison Hookfin, who averages 14.3 points, scored three.

The defeat marks the second time in 10 days Lebanon failed to score at least 30 points in a game (Lebanon lost to Fairmont 44-29 Jan. 9). The Warriors scored 33 points during a loss at Springfield earlier this month.

“We’ve got to figure out how to play against, maybe the more elite teams in Dayton. We’ve got to be more efficient but we’ve got to finish the plays, too,” Higgins said.

The Elks may compete in the toughest division in the state as the GWOC National East currently houses No. 1 Wayne and No. 10 Springfield. The Elks lost to both squads already this season, falling most recently to Wayne by four points Dec. 22.

However, state rankings are the last thing Cupps wants to think about, because the Elks have a road date with Northmont Jan. 26.

“At the end of the year, if we’re good enough to compete with them, then we’ll compete with them,” Cupps said. “If not, we just want to be the best version we can be of us.”

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