Skip to main content

By Ryan Isley | Photo by Ben Jackson

AKRON, Ohio — The stars were out Saturday at the LeBron James Arena.

But Centerville’s two stars outshined everyone in the end to lead the Elks to a 52-46 win over host St. Vincent-St. Mary.

With Centerville trailing 40-35 heading into the fourth quarter and its 29-game winning streak on the line, Gabe Cupps and Tom House showed why they are among the names being tossed around for Ohio’s Mr. Basketball Award.

The duo combined to score all 17 points in the fourth for the defending Division I state champions, who beat the defending Division II state champions and top-ranked team in the SBLive Ohio Top 25.

After Cupps hit two free throws to start the final quarter, House buried a 3-pointer to tie the game.

Though House had struggled earlier in the game, Cupps was confident his running mate could hit the shots they needed when it mattered most because of the work he sees House put in on a daily basis.

“If he has an open shot, I want him to take it every time,” Cupps said. “Even if he has missed the last 10, I want him to shoot the next one. That’s how much I trust him.”

STVM went on a mini-run led by Illinois commit Sencire Harris.

First, Harris drove the lane and scored a basket to give the Fighting Irish the lead back. Then after grabbing a defensive rebound, he came down the floor and found Lance Hayes for a layup.

Trailing by four, House again let fly from behind the arc. And just as before, the ball found the bottom of the net. Cupps followed that with a 15-foot jumper to give Centerville a 45-44 lead.

When Harris hit another basket to give STVM the lead back, House spotted up for a 3-pointer on the right wing after Rich Rolf grabbed an offensive rebound. Rolf kicked it out, House loaded it up and fired to give Centerville a lead it wouldn’t again relinquish.

“It definitely felt good,” House said. “But I can do that just because my teammates have confidence in me. I didn’t play too well in the first half of the game, and they were just in my ear telling me I was all good.”

It was that trust the team shows in one another that led House to show up in the game’s crucial moments after coming out and playing what he referred to as “soft” in the first half, when the Florida State commit had just four points.

But he thought back on his endless hours of work in the gym.

“I feel like you wake up every morning and work on your game, and it has to come out some point,” House said. “I definitely owed it to our team.”

Cupps then converted on both ends of a one-and-one free-throw situation twice to ice the game for the Elks. With the pressure of the game in his hands, the Indiana commit reverted back to his meditation techniques to calm his nerves.

“I do (meditation) every morning,” Cupps said. I looked over at my dad (Centerville coach Brook Cupps) before the first set of one-and-ones and I was gassed from being in the whole time. He reminded me to take a deep breath and focus on my breath. That tunes everything else out.”

Even if Cupps was tired and unsure if he would hit the free throws, his teammate had no doubts.

“Every morning we are in the gym together, so I have a lot of confidence in what he can do as a player,” House said. “I knew every one of them were going in because of how much he works.”

The talk coming into the game was about the matchup between Cupps and House for Centerville against the duo of Harris and Ramar Pryor for STVM.

While Harris did a lot of everything on Saturday, he had his lowest scoring output of the season with just eight points. Pryor exited late in the second quarter after talking an elbow to the face and did not return.

With the talk of all the star power on the same floor, the Centerville players couldn’t escape knowing who they were up against. But they also wanted to focus on something other than the individual matchups.

“We obviously know them because they are really great players,” Cupps said. “But we are going to focus on ourselves. The thing we always say is ‘do what we do.’”

And what the Elks do is win games.