STATE CHAMPS: Centerville basketball Ohio title path went through ‘some great teams’



CENTERVILLE – A late-Sunday night celebration of the Centerville High School boys basketball team’s first Division I Ohio championship after the Elks beat Westerville Central 43-42 will have to do for now.

Citing impact of the coronavirus, no large events or activities are currently planned to honor the team that survived the Ohio big school boys basketball gauntlet on the way to its first state title.

“That’s one of the reasons I thought it was important to try to celebrate” Sunday night at the CHS football stadium, Centerville Athletic Director Rob Dement said Monday.

“Because the way school is right now a lot of our kids are remote. It’s just not a normal school day right now. It’s not like we can fill the gymnasium and have a huge pep rally,” he said.

“We made sure we did something (Sunday) night to make sure the kids had a chance to experience the excitement that they helped create,” Dement added.

He estimated 400 to 500 gathered at the football stadium to celebrate the Elks title run, an accomplishment which Dement said brought “an incredible feeling.”

The team’s path included wins over defending (2019) champion Cincinnati Moeller, top-ranked and previously unbeaten Mentor, and Westerville Central, which finished seventh in the final AP poll, three notches below the Elks.

This year’s Final Four at the University of Dayton Arena was the first time the Centerville boys team made to the state Division I basketball tournament after qualifying for the regionals several times. And that’s a testament to competition in this part of the state, Dement said.

“There’s some good basketball played in Southwest Ohio. So there’s been some really good basketball teams that unfortunately we weren’t able to get past” in previous years, he said.

“We’ve got some great teams this year,” Dement said. “And quite honestly – I’m very proud of our coaches and players this year – but just like any year to judge the success of a program based on how they do at the state level is really unfair.

“Because when you get to the state level, you need to have a great team and you also need to have a little bit of luck,” he added. “Our regional final game against Moeller…that’s a championship basketball game in most states.

“And we had to win that game to try to get to state. And it’s that way across the board in all sports in Southwest Ohio.”

The Elks’ boys team “has continued to build on the tradition at Centerville where the mentality of hard work and team work pays off with the return of great success,” Elks Booster President Matt Poulton said in an email.

The win over Westerville Central went down to the final seconds and was a “great game!” Vicki Neher-Smith said on the Centerville City Schools Facebook page.

“Congratulations on the historic win!!!” the Washington Twp. Professional Firefighters Local 3369 posted on the same page.

The Elks led most of the game but fell behind 39-34 with 5:42 left. Centerville went on a 9-0 run to take a 43-39 lead. Central had to inbound with 2.3 seconds left on the baseline after a Centerville foul. Landon Tillman missed an off-balance shot from the right corner over Rich Rolf.

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