Late 9-0 run, stingy defense ‘perfect ending’ to Centerville’s first state basketball championship

Centerville showed its closing strength again and showed why it is the best Division I boys basketball team in Ohio.

The Elks rallied late with a 9-0 run, then forced a difficult 3-point attempt at the buzzer that bounced off the rim and defeated Westerville Central 43-42 in a thrilling state final Sunday night at UD Arena.

Similar to the regional final victory over Cincinnati Moeller, the Elks had fouls to give in the final stretch. After the Elks committed a turnover, they fouled the Warhawks with 10 seconds left, 7 seconds left and finally 2.3 seconds left.

ExplorePHOTOS: Centerville wins Division I state title

After another timeout, the Warhawks inbounded from the baseline to Landon Tillman on the right side. He took a dribble toward the right corner and let a 3-point shot go over Rich Rolf. Tillman had made four 3-pointers and scored 16 points.

“It was a hard-fought game – we expected that,” Centerville coach Brook Cupps said. “It’s going to come down to a possession like that. We would have preferred to stay on offense during that possession. But for us and the way we do things, and the way stuff happens for us, that was the perfect ending to a state championship.”

Gabe Cupps scored 16 points and House and Rolf scored nine each to lead the Elks, who shot 51.4 % and made 6 of 13 3-pointers.

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The Elks, who finished 26-3 for the most wins in school history, advanced to the state tournament when Tom House hit a long 3-pointer with 7 seconds left to beat Moeller. But that game was far from over as the Elks gave fouls until Moeller had to inbound with 0.5 seconds left with no chance to get off a shot in time.

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The Centerville Elks boys basketball team pose for a photo with the Division I state championship trophy on Sunday night at UD Arena. The Elks defeated Westerville Central 43-42 in the title game. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED

The Centerville Elks boys basketball team pose for a photo with the Division I state championship trophy on Sunday night at UD Arena. The Elks defeated Westerville Central 43-42 in the title game. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED

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The Centerville Elks boys basketball team pose for a photo with the Division I state championship trophy on Sunday night at UD Arena. The Elks defeated Westerville Central 43-42 in the title game. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED

The Elks led 34-28 late in the third quarter before Tasos Cook hit a closing 3-pointer. The Warhawks, who finished 22-3 and were also playing in their first state final, made two 3-pointers to open the fourth and surged to a 39-34 lead with 5:42 left.

Cupps called timeout and his team responded. House hit a 12-footer and scored in transition to cut the deficit to 39-38 with 4:44 left. Rolf scored on a give-and-go from Cupps to take the lead for good at 40-39 with 3:11 left. Quinn Hafner added a 3-pointer with 2:34 left for a 43-39 lead and Centerville’s final points. Tillman’s 3-pointer with 44 seconds left accounted for Central’s final points.

The Elks led 22-18 at the half, but Central rallied to take a 28-26 lead off an Elks turnover. But the Elks responded with an 8-5 advantage to close the third quarter up 34-31. Cupps hit a 3-pointer and a floater for a three-point play to put his team ahead.

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Centerville led 5-0 on a Rolf 3-pointer and Tre Johnson layup. Cupps scored eight of the Elks next 10 points on two 3-pointers and a pull-up jumper to build a 15-11 lead after the first quarter.

With the score tied at 15 early in the second quarter, Cupps hit a 15-footer, House made a 3-pointer and Rolf scored inside on a feed from Cupps to go up 22-15. A 3-pointer by Central trimmed the lead to four at the half.

Centerville and Westerville Central were the first two public school teams to play in the Division I final since Lima Senior and Wilmington in 2016.

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Centerville's Rich Rolf puts up a shot against Westerville Central's MJ Davis (3) in the Division I boys basketball state championship game on Sunday night at UD Arena. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED

Centerville's Rich Rolf puts up a shot against Westerville Central's MJ Davis (3) in the Division I boys basketball state championship game on Sunday night at UD Arena. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED

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Centerville's Rich Rolf puts up a shot against Westerville Central's MJ Davis (3) in the Division I boys basketball state championship game on Sunday night at UD Arena. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED

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