Brook Cupps braced for the worst. Coming off an uncharacteristic 11-loss boys basketball season with a new Centerville lineup that was mostly untested, the only thing he was sure of was the Elks hadn’t won him over.
“I enjoy this group now,” the head coach said following a season-defining 69-44 defeat of visiting rival Wayne before a capacity crowd on Friday night. “Much more than I expected at the beginning of the year, to be honest.”
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What’s not to like? It was the regular-season finale for the longtime rivals with everything at stake, including a share of the Greater Western Ohio Conference National East title with Springfield. Centerville (16-5, 10-2) had that clinched just three minutes into the first quarter after mounting a 13-0 lead.
It’s the first time the Elks hoisted GWOC divisional hardware since a four-season run from 2005-09 that produced three outright titles and another shared championship.
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And there’s more. It pushed Centerville’s unbeaten streak to 12 games and avenged a 47-41 loss at Wayne in Game 1 of the series way back on Dec. 21.
Anything else? Sure. Top seeded in the upcoming Division I sectional, it solidifies the Elks as the area’s best D-I postseason hope.
Most appreciative of all that mounting success? Cupps.
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“From the beginning of the year to where we’re at now is crazy,” he said. “They’re fun to coach because they’re unselfish and they care about each other. The progress for them is unbelievable from the beginning of the year.”
That goes for Centerville’s 6-foot-9 emerging junior center Mo Njie, too. Already an established defender and shot blocker, he’s become a consistent offensive threat near the basket.
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Njie ignited that quick strike with eight first-period points and led the Elks with 16, hitting all seven of his close-range shots and both free throws. Nothing unusual about that; he leads the GWOC in shooting percentage (71 of 107; 64 percent).
“My guys trust me with the ball,” he said. “The feeling is exhilarating. It’s senior night. I had the mentality that these were my seniors. I’ve been with them since Day 1 and I’m not about to lose on senior night.”
When Wayne’s defense collapsed on Njie, that created open perimeter shots for the Elks. Senior Elks guard Ryan Marchal hit a pair of 3-pointers for 13 points and senior Jason Sneed added 11.
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Its coach won over, Centerville’s challenge now is to take that momentum into the postseason. Centerville’s tourney opener is against Piqua at Trotwood-Madison on Friday, Feb. 22. Centerville hasn’t lost since falling at unbeaten and top-ranked (D-I) Moeller (21-0) to begin the new year. The Elks also lost at No. 1 (D-II) Trotwood (20-2), Springfield (13-9) and Wayne.
Senior guard Ronnie Hampton led the Warriors (12-9, 9-3) with 18 points.
“They’re on a roll and they hit us hard early,” conceded second-year Wayne coach Nate Martindale, who guided the Warriors to a D-I regional final last season. “Sometimes, when you’re down it’s hard to figure out how to change that momentum. That was unfamiliar territory for our guys and it showed. Kudos to them; we were definitely humbled.”
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A No. 5 seed, Wayne is matched against Stebbins in the sectional first round at Trotwood on Saturday, Feb. 23. The Warriors lost four games by a combined eight points. Centerville and Wayne would have to advance to the D-I regional to play again. Wayne’s bracket includes No. 3 seed Butler (20-2), Fairmont (14-8) and Franklin (14-7).
“We have to have a short-term memory,” Martindale said. “We have to figure out a way.”
Carroll 59, Chaminade Julienne 58 OT: Jaden Dahm’s layup with five seconds left in overtime was the game winner. Dahm had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Matt Cogan 15 points on five 3-pointers for the Patriots (12-10).
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CJ, ranked No. 4 in the state and playing in head coach Joe Staley’s final home game, rallied from a 16-point deficit. Milton Gage and Brandon Gibson scored 12 points apiece for CJ (18-4). Staley will retire from coaching after the season.
Beavercreek 59, Fairmont 57: Chris Herbort had 13 points, Brayden Walther 11 and Yousef Saleh 10 in the Beavers’ (7-14) home upset. Ryan Hall led Fairmont with 20 points. It was the Firebirds’ third straight loss.
Brookville 68, Valley View 61: Wade Turner had 25 points and Jacob Gudorf 22 points and 10 assists, and the visiting Blue Devils (18-3, 9-3) secured an outright Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern championship.
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Butler 67, Tippecanoe 60: The visiting Aviators secured an outright GWOC North title.
Fairborn 63, Xenia 52: Shaunn Monroe had 22 points, Otis Person 16 and Tylen Eatmon 10 to lead the visiting Skyhawks (14-8). Samari Curtis, the GWOC’s leading scorer (34.4) led Xenia with 22 points.
Franklin Monroe 65, National Trail 60: Ethan Conley had 33 points to lead the host Jets’ (12-9) upset. Cameron Harrison scored 21 points for National Trail (17-4), which suffered its second straight loss.
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Legacy Christian 67, Miami Valley 48: Keano Hammerstrom tallied 15 points, Erik Uszynski added 13 and the vising Knights (19-3) posted a program record for most wins.
Miamisburg 70, Northmont 58: Drew Barry had 19 points, Corey Hartman 17 and Brett Hensley 15 for the host Vikings (16-6, 6-5), who won a GWOC National West title for the second straight season.
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Springboro 67, Lebanon 60: Willieon Yates had 21 points and Garett Powell 17 for the host Panthers, who prevented the Warriors from sharing the GWOC National West title with Miamisburg.
Twin Valley South 54, Arcanum 45: Cade Cottingim and Willie Bowman each had 14 points apiece and the visiting Trojans (19-3, 11-1) clinched an outright Cross County Conference title.
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