Like so many teams before, Centerville faced the ultimate challenge against the unbeaten Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller boys basketball team.
And like all those previous Moeller opponents – 47 consecutive now over two seasons – the Crusaders rung up the Elks, 59-41.
It was a much anticipated Division I regional final high school showdown at Xavier University’s Cintas Center on Saturday night and for all the wrong reasons. Why? Centerville didn’t give Moeller its best shot.
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The circumstances leading up to game were unlike any this postseason. The Ohio High School Athletic Association – including its commissioner Jerry Snodgrass – was lit up on via social media since Thursday, after the OHSAA denied Centerville’s appeal and upheld a two-game suspension for Elks senior guard Ryan Marchal. He had received two disputed technical fouls in the final minute of Wednesday’s regional semifinal defeat of Springfield and mandatory suspension.
ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas promised via Twitter to weigh in on the matter on WING-AM’s Kinner & Schlemmer afternoon show. He didn’t, but his proposed fireworks would not have been kind to the OHSAA.
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So there was Marchal, the super-charged and under-sized Elks point guard anchored on the bench in black hoodie and cancer-awareness new pink shoes.
“It was really hard,” he said. “I was going through a bunch of emotions.”
To be fair, Centerville’s shot at overcoming Moeller might have been fleeting on the Elks’ best night. There was no chance this night.
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Also missing was the developing game of Centerville’s 6-foot-9 junior center Mo Njie. He had two points, four rebounds, five blocks and a massive ankle, which he twisted in the final minutes of the Springfield game. He didn’t practice Thursday or Friday and was hardly the player who had 14 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocks just three nights prior.
“There was never a doubt if he was going to play,” Centerville coach Brook Cupps said, “it was just how much he could handle.”
Senior sub extraordinaire Kaleb Mitchell started in Marchal’s spot and led the Elks with nine points and eight rebounds before fouling out. His defensive matchup against Moeller senior guard and West Virginia signee Miles McBride (13 points, six assists) should have registered with college scouts.
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Centerville hung with Moeller early, sputtered briefly to close the half and endured an inevitable fade after the break. Sophomore sub Alex Williams hit all seven of his shots and led Moeller with 16 points. Max Land added 15 points for the Crusaders.
Matt Pearce and Davis Mumaw had eight points each for the Elks. Centerville (22-6) had an 18-game win streak snapped. Ironically, the Elks’ last regular-season loss was Jan. 5 at Moeller, 54-33.
“We knew we were playing a wounded animal and they were going to come to fight,” Moeller coach Carl Kremer said. “They played great early, but over the course we had a few too many weapons.”
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Moeller (27-0) will make its third straight D-I state final four appearance against Lake St. Edward (19-8) on Friday. The Crusaders will win another state title on Saturday night against the Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary/Powell Olentangy Liberty semifinal winner. Count on that happening.
“We know we’re blessed,” said Kremer.
The Centerville girls basketball team also was bounced in a D-I regional final, losing 70-63 to Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame last weekend at Fairmont’s Trent Arena. MND defeated Pickerington Central 52-31 to win a D-I girls state championship at OSU’s Schottenstein Center in Columbus on Saturday night.
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Cupps promised to keep a running dialog with the OHSAA about creating an appeals process and reviewing video for players who have been given technical fouls in tournament games. He felt Marchal’s techs were unwarranted.
“The conversation I had with Ryan (after the appeal was denied) was the hardest conversation I’ve had with a player in my career,” Cupps said. “The win or lose part doesn’t matter; I wanted Ryan to have that opportunity (to play). That’s something he had earned. It’s unfortunate.”
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