Saben leads Centerville over Wayne

It’s not just football that revs up the Centerville-Wayne rivalry. Whenever these schools play, everything is magnified.

“I know Coach (Brook) Cupps doesn’t show a lot of emotion, but he wanted this one pretty bad,” assured Centerville senior Keegan Saben following a resounding 74-58 knockout of Wayne in a boys high school basketball Division I sectional final at Butler on Friday night. “We all wanted it bad and it just feels great.”

BOYS SCHEDULE: Sectional, district, regional

The Greater Western Ohio Conference National East Division rivals split during the regular season, but it’s Centerville (17-8) that will take a five-game win streak into next Saturday’s multiple D-I district finals at UD Arena. The Elks will play the winner of today’s matchup between Greater Miami conference rivals Lakota East (16-7) and Mason (19-2) at Lakota West.

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Saben, the Elks’ leading scorer as a junior and senior after transferring from Alter, was better than ever. He bottomed three 3-pointers and tallied a game-high 25 points, just the kind of mojo West Liberty University (W.Va.) envisioned when he signed last November.

That also drew Wayne’s defensive attention and Centerville responded accordingly. Sam Lash added 14 points, Alex Grandin 13 and Donnie Shelton 10 in easily the Elks’ best effort this season.

GIRLS SCHEDULE: District, regional

Centerville lost by four points at Wayne in late January but defeated the Warriors 56-53 in the regular-season finale two weeks ago.

A 14-0 run that ended the third quarter and stretched into the fourth separated Centerville for good. By the time Wayne’s Ray James hit a 3-pointer the Elks’ lead was secure and took off from there.

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“I thought (Saben) stepped up and that’s what good players are supposed to do,” Cupps said. “We just talk about being our best at the end of the year. These guys have bought into that mentality. I’m thankful they played as great as they did. It’s a great experience for them and we get a chance to go back to UD.”

Junior L’Christian “Blue” Smith overcame an achy back that sidelined him for several games to lead the Warriros with 16 points. Junior Deshon Parker added 12 points.

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Wayne, two seasons removed from a D-I state title and coming off a 25-1 season, finishes an uncharacteristic 15-9 after losing three of its final four.

Wayne coach Travis Trice was instructed to remain seated the second half as his son Isaiah Trice drew a technical foul to start the second half. He was cited for changing an undershirt at courtside rather than in the locker room.

“It was a game-changer,” Trice said. “That changes what I do. … We were down to seven guys the last half of the season. … We never really could get back to trying to find a rhythm. That’s what you saw (Friday).”

This mirrors what Centerville did last season when the Elks turned tourney hot before falling to Wilmington in a regional final.

“I guess we’re turning into a March team,” Saben said. “We did it last year and we’re doing it this year. If feels great to be at our best right now.”

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