CENTERVILLE — Centerville senior Gabe Cupps, the two-time all-stater and Ohio’s 2022 Mr. Basketball, didn’t save the best game of his high school career for his last home game. But he played a Gabe Cupps kind of game, the kind that ends in victory.
“He just values winning,” his dad and coach Brook Cupps said. “Whatever that requires, whatever that takes, that’s what he wants to do and is willing to do in order for his team to win. And it’s always been like that.”
The emotions of Senior Night, Brook Cupps said, got to his son and his teammates a little bit in the first half. Their offense wasn’t in sync, they took some questionable shots, they didn’t shoot well, and, Gabe Cupps said, they gave Fairmont too many straight-line drives to the basket.
So when a Fairmont player got past Gabe on his Senior Night with a straight-line drive, he made the kind of winning play he’s made for four years as the Elks’ starting point guard. He hustled and blocked the shot from behind, pinning the ball against the backboard. That play, two steals and some fast-delivery, on-target passes to open shooters marked Cupps’ first-half performance Friday night against Fairmont.
He didn’t score until halfway through the third quarter. Then he scored 12 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, including 8-for-8 from the free-throw line, to lead the Elks to a 57-42 victory over Fairmont.
The game, as always, was primary for the Elks (17-2, 12-0 Greater Western Ohio Conference). But there was no getting around the finality of a last home game for Cupps and five others, including Emmanuel Deng and Kyle Kenney, two guys he’s been playing with since he moved to Centerville as a second-grader.
“I really never thought tonight would come at all,” Gabe Cupps said. “It felt definitely weird. It didn’t feel like I would expect it to.”
When Cupps was the last player introduced and walked with his parents and sister to center court, his emotions surprised him.
“I thought I would feel more emotional and sad, but I was more sad for the other seniors,” he said. “Watching everybody else walk out and realizing they’ll never play here again, that for some reason means more to me. It was the same thing with Tom (House) and Rich (Rolf) last year.”
Brook Cupps took another senior night in stride and expressed his thankfulness for getting to coach another group of seniors and experience so much with his son, including the 2021 Division I state championship.
“There’s an old quote that Dr. Seuss said: Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened,” said the coach, whose team is ranked second in this week’s Associated Press state poll. “That’s definitely how I try to look at it. He’s got great opportunities ahead, but fortunately for us, he values the present moment and wants to maximize the opportunities here.”
The future, for Gabe, is a college career at Indiana. The present, for all the Elks, means two more wins for a fifth straight GWOC title and No. 1 seed in the upcoming tournament. The path to so much success for the Elks began when Brook Cupps left his alma mater at Graham to coach at Centerville. The move gave Gabe his first opportunity to play on an organized team as a third-grader with Deng and Kenney.
“I’ve asked my dad why he moved down here, and his answer was to give me and (sister) Ally more opportunities,” Gabe said. “I think it’s worked out pretty well. There’s a lot of opportunities here and it’s a great place to go to school, a great place to play.”
Fairmont (10-10, 7-5) was the Elks’ foil for a seventh straight time but have been the GWOC team to push the Elks the hardest, including a two-point regional semifinal loss last year. Firebirds coach Kenny Molz likes what his team has become the past couple weeks and showed Friday.
“Our guys played well tonight, very unselfish,” he said. “We’re really not caring who gets the credit, who gets the scoring. It’s an our shot, not my shot, type mentality.”
The Firebirds are on pace to finish third in the GWOC and could be seeded as high as No. 3 in the sectional.
“Regardless of where we’re at at the end of the year with wins, losses and how far we get in the tournament,” Molz said, “if we’re playing the right way and playing together, whenever this is done, you can walk away with your head held high and no regrets.”
Centerville Hall of Fame: The four newest members of the school’s athletic hall of fame were introduced at halftime. The inductees are Michael Bennett (football/track and field), Scott Chillinsky (football/track and field), Patrick Reynolds (boys volleyball head coach, baseball/football assistant coach), and Kyle Rose (football/wrestling).
Bennett (2011) was an all-state lineman, played on Ohio State’s 2014 national championship team and was drafted by Jacksonville in 2015. He played three seasons in the NFL. He was a state champion and All-American as a thrower for the track team.
Chillinsky (2004) was an all-state defensive back and played in college at Cincinnati. In track, he was a state placer with a relay team and in the 400 meters.
Reynolds coached the boys volleyball team to six consecutive final fours and won state titles in 2001 and 2002. He also coached the JV baseball team for 17 years and won 214 games.
Rose (2011) earned multiple all-GWOC honors as a defensive lineman and played four years at West Virginia. As a wrestler, he owns the best record in school history at 140-24. As a senior, he won a state championship and finished the season 35-0.
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