Powell comes up big late as Centerville tops SoCal Academy in Flyin’ rematch

KETTERING — Centerville made winning plays all over the floor in the second half Sunday night. But as the fourth-quarter clock ticked under six minutes the Elks still trailed by four.

Not that much? Well, they had held SoCal Academy to six second-half points after trailing by eight at halftime. The question? Would one of the gutsiest, outwork-the-opponent second-half performances this team has had to give in recent seasons be enough? Only if the Elks could start hitting shots.

Then Colin O’Connor fired a pass along the baseline to Jonathan Powell. He swished a 3-pointer from the right corner to cut the lead to one. Powell made another one with 3:38 left for a two-point lead. Then he made the kind of winning play the Elks stacked up the entire half.

When he wasn’t open in the left corner, the Elks reversed the ball to the other side with three quick passes. Powell sprinted to the right corner and the defender was left behind. Bang. Another 3-pointer and a five-point lead.

Then, for emphasis, Powell got loose behind the SoCal press and threw down a one-handed dunk to finish off a 48-40 victory with 22 points (13 in the fourth quarter) in the prime-time showdown at the 20th Beacon Orthopaedics Flyin’ To The Hoop at Trent Arena.

“It just feels really good that I’m someone that my teammates can look to to hit shots like that,” Powell said.

When Powell transferred from Chaminade Julienne after last season and enrolled at Centerville in the spring, he started working out with Gabe Cupps, last year’s Mr. Basketball who led the Elks to a state title in 2021 and to another state final appearance last year. That means working in the gym early in the morning and just about any other time they can make the time.

“I have have full confidence in him that if he takes good shots, he’s going to shoot over 50% from three,” said Cupps, who scored 12 points and kept the Elks close with eight in the first half. “It was really good to see that his work paid off and he trusted it enough.”

The Elks (11-2) beat SoCal in this event for the second straight year, but the bigger accomplishment to them was bouncing back from a Friday night loss at home to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.

“We wanted the taste of losing on Friday out of our mouth for sure,” Elks coach Brook Cupps said. “They expect to win when they play. Their goal is to bring a constant edge and collectively push the standard. Our standard is pretty high right now, so if you’re going to push our standard, you’ve got to be approaching excellence.”

“It lit a fire in us, like we’re not good enough to win the state right now,” Gabe Cupps said of Friday’s loss. “Everybody felt that and realized that we need to get better if we want to accomplish that.”

The fight the Elks showed in the second half to shut down a super-athletic team with height — a 6-foot-11 and 7-footer inside — and long and super-quick guards, made Brook Cupps crack a big smile.

“I would say tough, passionate, unified and thankful,” he said, reciting his program’s core values. “That’s a good answer isn’t it?”

Cupps said he hopes his team is turning the corner of playing to those values more consistently as the season enters the second half.

“We really guarded and made it tough for them, but we’ve got guys that can do that,” he said. “That’s part of who we are. And it’s fun to coach because those guys want to compete. They’re not backing down.”

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