“I’m super excited for our kids to have a chance to do this,” Stone said. “Even for some of my kids who don’t play a lot it will be a good experience in front of a packed house. And our kids love that gym.”
The team’s only loss is to second-ranked Alter when Keon Wright was missing from the lineup. Oakwood won tournament games last year for the first time since 2016. Its last district title came in 2007 in Division III.
Oakwood is led by 6-foot-5 junior guard Will Maxwell and senior guards Wright and Jack Eply. Maxwell averages 22.1 points a game and is being recruited by mid-major schools. Wright, who missed some early games with injuries, averages 17.3 and Epley 13.6. Jason Hu, a senior, is also back from last year and 6-5 Gavin Pryor, the team’s best defender, is back after missing last year because of injury.
At last year’s postseason banquet Stone said he joked that he wished he could play with two balls this year. All of them can score, he said, and have been 20-point scorers at some point in their life.
“You only have one basketball and you have play just to win,” Stone said. “Find the best shots for the best players. So being unselfish has got to be important for our kids.”
After going 17-7 last year, reaching the district final and returning all the best players, Stone said his team is getting every opponent’s best shot. He told them that they need to think of the pressure that comes with being a target as a privilege.
“Our first five’s pretty talented, and I tell them you almost want to pretend you’re not very good,” Stone said. “Don’t be complacent. Play like you haven’t been given anything.”
Centerville is an even more hunted team. The Elks (8-0) are on a 25-game winning streak, are ranked No. 1 in the state and are ranked No. 15 in the MaxPreps national poll. But for a change the opponent is more highly regarded.
SoCal Academy of California comes in as the No. 4 team in the MaxPreps poll, and the Elks will face them in the prime-time spot of Sunday at 8:15 p.m..
SoCal brings five-star recruits Braelon Green and Dior Johnson, who has committed to Oregon, and four four-star recruits who are committed to Oregon State, Michigan State, Florida and Stanford.
“We’re looking forward to it and excited about the opportunity to go compete against a team with their talent and see where we are,” Elks coach Brook Cupps said. “Playing teams like this that have such a high ceiling talent wise gives you some good feedback. We’ll find out what we have to get better at.”
Centerville is plenty talented too and the players know each other well. Senior Tom House is committed to Florida State and junior point guard Gabe Cupps recently committed to Indiana.
“We’re a little more efficient offensively than we were last year,” Brook Cupps said. “Everybody that contributed scoring wise is back and they’re better. They’ve worked on their game and they’re more consistent and they understand our offensive stuff better, so that’s a significant thing.”
Tickets can be purchased online, at the door (if available) or through participating schools. Visit flyintothehoop.com for more info.
FLYIN’ TO THE HOOP
Trent Arena, Kettering
FRIDAY, JAN. 14
ISA Academy (Ohio) vs. Link Academy (Mo.), 6:30 p.m.
Huntington Prep (WV) vs. Flyght Academy (Ohio), 8:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, JAN. 15
Bellbrook vs. Tri-Village (Girls), 11:30 a.m.
Cols. Africentric vs. Oakwood, 1:15 p.m.
ISA Academy vs. Shaker Heights, 3 p.m.
Wheeler (Ga.) vs. Cle. St. Ignatius, 4:45 p.m.
Pickerington North vs. Wayne, 6:30 p.m.
Link Academy vs. Huntington Prep, 8:15 p.m.
SUNDAY, JAN. 16
Botkins vs. Tri-Village, 11:30 a.m.
Dunbar vs. Akron Buchtel, 1:15 p.m.
Garfield Heights vs. Pickerington Central, 3 p.m.
Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s vs. Fairfield, 4:45 p.m.
Brush vs. Gahanna Lincoln, 6:30 p.m.
SoCal Academy (Calif.) vs. Centerville, 8:15 p.m.
MONDAY, JAN. 17
Pace Academy (Ga.) vs. Trotwood-Madison, 11:30 a.m.
Massillon Jackson vs. SoCal Academy, 1:15 p.m.
Combine Academy (N.C.) vs. Cin. Taft, 3 p.m.
Omnia Academy (Finland) vs. West Carrollton, 4:45 p.m.
Cin. Woodward vs. Fairmont, 6:30 p.m.