Team defense, Powell’s offense propels Centerville past rival Fairmont

VANDALIA – Centerville needed two things in the second half Saturday to defeat Greater Western Ohio Conference rival Fairmont in their third meeting this season: defense and a hot shooter.

The defense required everyone. The hot shooter was just who you would expect from the Elks: future Xavier player Jonathan Powell. He scored 19 of his 21 points in the half and the Elks pulled away in the fourth quarter for a harder-fought and closer-than-the-score-looks 46-32 victory at Butler High School.

The top-seeded Elks (16-8), who split two tight games with Fairmont during the regular season, advanced to next Sunday’s Division I district tournament at Xavier’s Cintas Center against Middletown.

After Baboucarr Njie scored the Elks’ first basket of the second half, Powell drove for a layup, and made four consecutive 3-pointers – including a four-point play – to lift the Elks to a 30-19 lead early in the fourth quarter. In all, Powell scored 17 straight Centerville points and finished with 21.

“Just not being as passive and getting into the paint and getting layups to get my 3-point game going,” Powell said of his big half.

The Elks trailed 14-12 at halftime after leading 10-4.

“We almost played a perfect first half of defense,” Fairmont coach Kenny Molz said. “With a guy like Powell, though, we talked about closing out 10-plus feet outside the 3-point line, and the times that we didn’t he started knocking down some shots.”

Centerville coach Brook Cupps wanted to see a more aggressive offense in the second half.

“We did a much better job of attacking the basket,” he said. “We were more aggressive off the dribble and got the ball in the paint. Obviously JP was huge. In a game like that where it’s possession by possession, a couple threes like that make such a big difference. He did a good job of waiting for the right shots and being aggressive by attacking off the dribble.”

The Elks also stepped up their defense against the Firebirds (15-10) in the second half to build the lead off Powell’s scoring. Jamar Montgomery stuck close to Fairmont leading scorer Evan Gentile and held him to 12 points.

“Both teams tonight defensively showed up,” Molz said. “That was the best Centerville defense we’ve seen all year. Very similar to what they were the last couple of years. If they defend like that, they’re gonna be a very, very tough out.”

Cupps saw it the same way.

“We were great defensively,” he said. “We were committed to doing stuff we wanted to do it for the entire game.

“We kept our composure too,” Cupps said to a late-game incident. “You have the third game against someone you know so well, and especially now because the kids are talking all the time. There were a lot of opportunities not to.”

The emotions of the rivalry were evident throughout and spilled over with the Elks up by 10 points with 1:03 left. A shoving match ensued after a loose ball and a foul that was called on Fairmont’s Brock Baker. Fairmont’s Stevie Doty was assessed a double technical and Centerville’s Ethan Greenberg was assessed a technical. And two Fairmont players were ejected for leaving the bench.

“The officials let us really play, which I don’t mind,” Molz said. “At times they could have, maybe with language on both sides, told guys to stop. It was a very emotional thing.

“Centerville players had some uncharacteristic things after our second game, and our player has to do a better job of holding his emotions at the end today. It’s a very highly emotional moment, especially when you know that you’re done. It’s a good learning moment for our programs and Centerville’s program and anybody that watched.”

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