End of an era for Centerville’s father-son duo

Through four years and 115 games the Cupps men might not have sought the spotlight, but the attention was unavoidable through state tournaments, accolades and recruiting.

Head coach Brook Cupps and point guard Gabe Cupps put Centerville High School boys basketball on the minds of basketball-minded people across Ohio when they won the Division I state championship in 2021. From the outside, the identity of Centerville basketball became the father-son duo.

While the basketball program earned respect around the state, won 45 straight games and reached the state semifinals two more times, two people, not seeking or getting much attention, watched from the stands and up close at home. The Cupps women understand more than anyone the sacrifices it took to achieve so much.

Betsy Cupps, the wife to Brook Cupps, and her daughter, Ally, the older and supportive sister of Gabe, watched something for the last time Saturday night.

They watched their husband, dad, son and brother lead the Centerville basketball team together. The team they love played its last game of 2023 in a 57-53 loss to Pickerington Central in the Division I state championship at UD Arena.

“So many teams are not here and never get here,” Betsy said. “There’s coaches and teams that work just as hard and have talented players and don’t make it this far. We’re lucky to be part of it.”

When the postgame ceremonies and interviews were over, Betsy and Ally stood in the hallway and waited to see their coach and the player.

“I’ve been a coach’s wife the whole time,” Betsy Cupps said. “So it’s been fun these four years to have Gabe mixed in with that, too. And you could definitely see the change of their relationship and how they handled it, the learning curve from freshman year to tonight.”

Ally Cupps works at a dairy farm in Celina, but that doesn’t keep her away from big games. She said she has enjoyed watching the relationship dynamic between her dad and brother.

”I watch how hard Gabe works, and then watch how hard my dad works,” she said. “My whole life he’s just been basketball, basketball, basketball. And he loves his guys, and he gives them absolutely everything that he has.”

She had to pause and turn. She couldn’t see her mom and continue to talk without crying.

“And then to see Gabe mirror that and to see how grounded he is, with every rude thing that everyone says to him,” she continued. “I couldn’t handle it. I would say something back, but he’s so grounded and so rooted in who he is. So it’s been really wonderful to see that growth and then see that happen together for both of them.”

At the end of the post-game news conference, Brook and Gabe were asked to reflect on four years together. Brook went first.

“It’s been fun,” he said. “We’ve definitely had some battles and some fights. I’m obviously going to have some problems next year. It’s hard to see out there from a game when people watch us play one time – like the leadership is, I mean, it’s off the charts, guys. It’s off the charts. I’ve coached for 25 years. Nobody’s even been remotely close to it. He’s just impacted so many things in our program.”

Then it was Gabe’s turn.

“Everything I’ve learned about leadership and about making a team better and winning is just through him,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for a better coach, better dad. He’s always there for me. He acknowledges when he makes a mistake and tells me he loves me. Comes and rebounds for me. He’s probably rebounded more shots than anybody in existence. And it’s just so constant, and I don’t tell him enough how thankful I am for all that stuff and all those moments. But I wouldn’t be the player or the person I am without him.”

Gabe will never be too far away for fatherly advice, but he will be in a different uniform next year with the Indiana Hoosiers. And the family of four won’t be together as often on basketball nights.

“I told Brook I’m going to the Hoosiers games,” Betsy said. “I hope we can make it work. I don’t see Brook not coaching.”

It’s impossible to just watch on TV when you’ve witnessed the early morning trips to the gym.

“I’ve been there through all the work, too,” she said. “I see how often he’s gone to the gym. I know how much work he puts in. It’ll be fun. Not that it makes the end of this chapter any easier, but it’s fun to look forward to that as well. The next chapter will be good, too.”

As difficult as it was to believe that high school basketball was over for her brother, Ally got a glimpse of the future a few weeks ago when they went to Bloomington for Indiana’s senior night.

“It was just a weird feeling that we all kind of had that the next time that a game is played in Assembly Hall Gabe’s going to be part of that,” she said. “I’m excited for his next chapter. I know he’ll do well, and I know his work ethic will translate well to all of the crazy Indiana fans that love basketball as much as he does.”

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