Cin. Moeller defeated host CJ 62-55 in a boys high school basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Moeller withstands CJ second-half comeback in showdown of No. 1’s

Undefeated Moeller, the defending Division I state champ, was No. 1 in D-I. CJ, riding a 10-game win streak, was No. 1 in D-II, having overtaken another area heavyweight, Trotwood-Madison, for the top spot earlier in the week.

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Quickly, another Moeller rout was on after the Crusaders mounted an 18-point first-half lead. But not for long.

“A lot of teams would have folded with how we played early, but not the CJ kids,” Moeller coach Carl Kremer said following a 62-55 Crusaders win. “We were close to knocking them out in the first half, but they’re not going to go away.”

CJ’s Milton Gage (with ball) scored a game-high 26 points. CJ lost to visiting Cin. Moeller 62-55 in a boys high school basketball game on Sat., Feb. 2, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

It was the closest any team has pushed Moeller (18-0) during its perfect run and bettered by one the eight-point margin Lakota East lost to Moeller. The Crusaders own a 26.1-point win differential. CJ and East (13-5) also are the only teams to come within single digits of Moeller.

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Twice CJ cut Moeller’s lead to five points in the final minute. Each time CJ’s cozy gymnasium – where its storied state title teams of 1966 and ’70 played – reverberated with an extended and deafening roar of approval.

CJ’s John Nauseef (with ball) works around defender Max Land. CJ lost to visiting Cin. Moeller 62-55 in a boys high school basketball game on Sat., Feb. 2, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Eagles senior John Nauseef’s layup pulled CJ within 56-51 with 52 seconds left. Senior Milton Gage did the same when he also scored and converted a free throw with 9.8 seconds remaining that cut Moeller’s lead to 60-55. But Gage fouled out a second later and Moeller hit two more free throws for the final margin.

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It was a gallant comeback by CJ, but too much to overcome.

“For the last three quarters, we have a lot to be proud of,” Eagles coach Joe Staley said. “I just wish we’d have been a little more ready at the start. Truthfully, our guys have done that all year. We’ve probably had 12 close ball games.”

CJ’s Brandon Gibson (with ball) splits defenders Max Land (left) and Michael Currin. CJ lost to visiting Cin. Moeller 62-55 in a boys high school basketball game on Sat., Feb. 2, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Gage, a senior and four-year starter at guard who continues to up his game when needed most, led CJ with 26 points. Eagles senior Dominic Wilcox added 10 points.

Sophomore Alex Williams led Moeller with 16 points. Crusaders senior Alex Pfriem added 14 points and senior Miles McBride 13, although the West Virginia University signee was limited to four second-half free throws.

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Both these teams could make a strong postseason Greater Catholic League statement. Moeller will be heavily favored to defend its D-I state title after securing another GCL South title. CJ (16-2) should eventually contend with Trotwood as a final four D-II rep, although several other great Cincinnati teams might have a say in that. CJ (8-0) already has clinched its 12th GCL Co-Ed North title.

CJ’s Anthony Solomon (with ball) draws defender Max Land. CJ lost to visiting Cin. Moeller 62-55 in a boys high school basketball game on Sat., Feb. 2, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

CJ hadn’t played Moeller since 2015 and last beat the Crusaders in 2010. The teams will continue the GCL rotation series at least through next season at Moeller.

“This actually helps us,” said Kremer, also Moeller’s principal. “We haven’t had a lot of close games so this will be good for us.”

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Centerville 71, Col. Northland 41: Mo Njie, a 6-9 junior center, tallied a career-high 22 points and Matt Pearce added 16 as the streaking Elks (13-5) won their ninth game in a row at home. On Friday Centerville delivered a 60-44 defeat of Greater Western Ohio Conference National East and host Springfield (11-6) to remain in divisional contention.

CJ’s Milton Gage (with ball) scored a game-high 26 points. CJ lost to visiting Cin. Moeller 62-55 in a boys high school basketball game on Sat., Feb. 2, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Sidney 54, St. Marys Memorial 36: Trey Werntz hit four 3-pointers and scored 16 points to lead the visiting Yellow Jackets (15-3). Andre Gordon added 12 points and Ratez Roberts 10.

Springboro 78, Lakota West 74: William Yates scored nine of his 21 points in the final quarter and Connor Grevey added 19 points to lead the host Panthers’ (7-11) rally.

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Tecumseh 69, Piqua 67: Easton Lewis had 32 points and visiting Tecumseh (3-15) snapped a six-game losing streak. Micah Karn had 21 points for Piqua

Marion Local 41, Fort Loramie 26: Nick Tangeman had 11 points to lead the host Flyers (10-5) in the

inaugural Impact Trophy game.

Minster 49, Jackson Center 47: Jarod Schulze scored 17 points and Jack Heitbrink 13 for host Minster (11-6).

Centerville girls 47, Fairmont 46: Amy Velasco’s 3-pointer with two seconds left completed the visiting Elks’ rally. Centerville (19-1) trailed by 17 points. The Elks, ranked No. 2 in the state, are 10-0 in the GWOC National East with two games remaining.

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It was the third straight loss for hard-luck Fairmont (11-8), which fell to Wayne, Carroll and Centerville by a total of eight points and an overtime. Maddy Westbeld hit all nine free throws and led the Firebirds with 21 points and eight rebounds.

Waynesville 34, Portsmouth Notre Dame 27: Carli Brown had 10 points and unbeaten Waynesville (18-0) overcame a 2-point first quarter on a matchup of unbeaten powers in the Tackett’s Body Shop Shootout at Ironton.

Carroll 48, Chaminade Julienne 32: Megan Leraas scored 13 points, Sarah Ochs 11 and Julia Keller 10 for host Carroll (18-1, 9-0 GCL North).

Kenton Ridge 58, Springfield Shawnee 34: Mikala Morris had in 40 points as the visiting Cougars (16-3) won their 10th straight. The Central Buckeye Conference’s leading scorer (25.9), rebounder (21.1) and shot blocker (4.5), it was the third time Morris had scored 40 or more.

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