quarter to just two for outmanned Fairmont on its way to a 48-41
Greater Western Ohio Conference road win Friday at Trent Arena. It was
symbolic of the physical presence that allowed the Elks to prevail in
style despite a valiant effort from the home team.
With the win, Centerville (7-0, 3-0 GWOC Central) remains undefeated. Meanwhile, Fairmont (3-3, 0-3 GWOC Central) entered the contest in search of an identity and despite their gutsy efforts the3 Firebirds are still searching.
Savvy basketball fans have heard variations of this theme before.
This was a game between conference rivals from adjacent school districts. They’ve been playing this classic every year for generations; and although they know each other well, there is no love lost between the student bodies. A common respect, no doubt, exists. No one would mistake it for love.
Both teams played intense three-quarter court man-to-man defense. On offense, both squads deployed two players in the post and arrayed the rest around the perimeter in hopes that intelligent ball movement would facilitate isolation, two-man games, and easy scoring opportunities.
When Logan Rucker hit a jumper with 1:48 left, who could have known that it would be the only points Fairmont would score in the first quarter? Meanwhile Centerville’s 6-foot-10 center (a University of Dayton verbal commitment) Matt Kavanaugh had three rebounds all by himself.
So did his teammates Greg White and J.J. Mukhdomi.
This was a chess match between two notoriously patient coaches that insist on open shots and are more than willing to wait however long it took to get one. Each rebound really mattered and at the end of the first quarter it was Centerville 8, Fairmont 2.
The Elks extended their lead to 15-4, but with 6:02 on the clock Kavanaugh picked up his second foul. Suddenly it was easier to score in the paint and Fairmont’s Drew Sawyer responded with 4 consecutive jumpers.
Then, with just 3 seconds left, Mark Shadowens stroked one from someplace far beyond where normal people consider taking shots to close the halftime score to 17-13 in favor of the Elks.
“We’ve out rebounded our opponents by a wide margin this year, but to keep doing that we will have to keep Matt in the ballgame,” Centerville head coach Jim Staley said after the game. “He’s the only starter we have back, so we’re kind of learning on the job. We have a good young nucleus of players and every time out they see a new defense or they gain a new experience.”
After the break the Firebirds drew within one (19-18) but Kavanaugh reestablished his dominance and the Elks were able to rebuild a thirteen-point lead. For the most part, they were able to maintain that edge, and the final score was Centerville 48, Fairmont 41.
Brad Bamberger–one of Fairmont’s two proven scorers–did not play and is lost for the season due to a shoulder injury suffered in their recent game against Sidney. Meanwhile, the status of Andrew Kubaszewski (9 points) remains unclear. The Elk’s second-leading scorer injured his knee early in the second half and never returned.
Sawyer led the Firebirds with just two rebounds, but added 9 clutch points. Shadowens led all scorers (19 points), and Rucker had five assists (6 points) in two very heady, but futile performances.
Kavanaugh led Centerville with 11 points (8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks). Adam Replogle, still suffering from the effects of surgery on his meniscus during football season, came off the bench and contributed 9 points and 6 rebounds. Not to be outdone, White humbly offered his 4 points and 5 rebounds to the Elks’ cause.
“We have a lot of things to put together,” Staley stressed. “It’s fun to coach a young team and to build on something. They’ve been really good about accepting challenges and learning from them.
“Whenever we go into a building with Fairmont they try to control the tempo. To their credit they hung with their game plan and they came back at the end of the second half.”
Staley knows that basketball is to a large degree about match ups.
“Every game is going to be a challenge for us, regardless of who the other team is,” he said. “Much of this game is played against yourself rather than played against another team. Without Matt in the game tonight, the match ups were much more to their liking.
“As a team we have a lot to learn and a lot of work to do. We are in no big rush to play the rest of our schedule. We’re going to take it one game at a time and right now we are 7-0. That’s nice.”
With three loses in the GWOC-E already, Hank Bias and his Firebirds have a lot of work to do as well, but if you look closely you can already see progress.
“I liked our effort, but we couldn’t seem to put the ball in the basket. I liked the way we got back in the game, but you can’t keep putting them on the line and expecting good results. We put them in the bonus (late in the third quarter) and you just can’t do that against a team like Centerville.
“Our defense was much improved, but this team has a long way to go. We have a lot of young players. I liked our effort tonight and as long as we keep playing like that I am OK with it.”
Bias acknowledged that most winning teams are solid rebounding teams as well.
“We knew the rebounding numbers were bad, but they were really worse than that because a lot of them were offensive rebounds that were converted into points. I thought we were patient when we had the ball. It wasn’t like we weren’t getting good shots; we were just not making them.
“Once we made a few baskets we were able to get comfortable, but if they shoot 36 foul shots and you are the home team and you only shoot 16 then it almost doesn’t matter what else you do. That’s what happened tonight.”
Bias drew a technical foul when he inquired about the disparity. According to the coach, it was the first one he has drawn in his five years as head coach at Fairmont.
Centerville missed both shots.