Both head coaches are notorious for their admiration of open shots and their willingness to wait until they get just the right one, and the score of this contest won’t cause any cognitive dissonance for the local basketball community. Predictably, both teams played ultra-physical, man-to-man defense from the opening tip until the final buzzer.
“We did everything but win the Wayne game,” Centerville head coach Jim Staley said afterwards. “We were disappointed that we gave that one away. I’m glad we didn’t have to wait a long time to play another game.
“Tonight it just was great defensive basketball. Every time we come up here to play Beavercreek they know every dang-gone thing that we do. They are never surprised and we always have great basketball games.”
The home team got off to a fast start.
Senior guard Alex Morollo hit a three from the corner and followed that with a jumper from the high block to make the score 5-0. Unfortunately for the Beavers, they would go the next 8:34 without scoring a single point. Meanwhile, 6-foot-10 Elk center and University of Dayton recruit, Matt Cavanaugh, hit four straight shots in the lane.
At the end of the first quarter it was 14-5 Centerville. A combination of poor execution on the part of the Elks and high intensity defense on the part of the Beavers kept the score close.
At 4:01 of the second quarter, with two long range misses and an air ball already to his credit, the Beaver’s Mike Hauschild canned a three from the top of the key. Moments later his teammate Anthony Valerio hit one, too.
On the next possession, Hauschild responded with yet another bomb, and even though Centerville had strung together an impressive 16-2 run, the halftime score was suddenly Centerville 21, Beavercreek 18.
Beavercreek head coach, Charlie Back, has very little height on this year’s team and defensively he was forced to rotate a series of inexperienced underclassmen, point guards, and wingmen on Centerville’s big men. On offense he often had no post presence at all, preferring to patiently wait with five players on the perimeter for defensive lapses that his team could exploit.
“We have no legitimate post player ready to play on this level yet,” Back sighed. “So we have to rely on getting shots off of cuts and back cuts. Centerville makes it very difficult for us to score even if we do get by the initial defender. They are a good defensive team with or without Kavanaugh, but they become a great defensive team with him on the floor.”
The third quarter was an amazing 4-4 defensive stand off, but in the fourth quarter the Elks–partially by virtue of being in the double bonus–were able to pull away. Staley moved Kavanaugh beyond the high post out to the perimeter and he proceeded to pick the Beavers apart with assist after assist while facing the basket.
Centerville was 11 for 14 from the line for the game, while the Beavers were just 3 for 6, and that would provide all of the edge the Elks would need on this night.
The final score was 43-32, Centerville.
Kavanaugh led all scorers with 19 points (8 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks). Mike Griffin contributed 8. Craig Ashworth (3 rebounds) and Kubaszewski (2 rebounds) each added 6 points. Sophomore Tyler Sieron had 3 assists.
Tommy Kramer was the only Beaver in double figures with 10 points (3 rebounds, 2 assists). Valerio scored 8 (3 rebounds). Morolo (3 rebounds, 2 assists) and Hauschild each scored 5 (2 rebounds) for the Beavers.
“Defensively, I think we are very good, although we are still very young,” Staley said. “We are starting two sophomores and two juniors. We are a very young team, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be a smart team. Either way, we are a defensive team first. It works for us. We’ve had good teams. I don’t know if it is entertaining or not, but I think winning is entertaining, don’t you?
“Year after year we are on the top but we are nowhere near where some teams are athletically. We have to play defensive, possession-count basketball. We have to rebound the ball. We sell our kids on that, and they all buy into it.”
In many ways it was Kavanaugh’s physical presence that was the difference in this contest, but it was his ball skills that provided his team a much needed fourth quarter edge.
“Matt really likes to pass the basketball, and he likes to dribble, too. He can handle the ball. He really likes to play on the perimeter, but sometimes we ask him to give up some of his strengths for the good of the team.
“Tonight we were playing against a very good team, a very smart team. We knew that Matt would have a tough time getting good looks and that someone else was going to have to step up. Griffin and Ashworth are both fine defenders that can shoot the ball, so that gave us another dimension.”
After the game the two coaches met at midcourt and chatted for several minutes. There is obviously a mutual respect between them.
“Mike Back has made a big commitment to running the Princeton offense,” Staley smiled. “That is something that we tried at one point but couldn’t do. I admire him for even trying that. If he can manage to teach his kids that offense and pair it with the kind of defense that they play year in and year out they will be tough.”
Back was in total agreement.
“We thought that one of our strengths coming into this season, knowing that we weren’t going to have a legitimate center like Jerome or even Justin Tillman, was that we had some seniors that have been around the block and who could shoot the ball. We just thought that this (Princeton) offense really fit what we were hoping to do.
“We’re getting better at it, and I thought we did pretty well with it tonight, but if we can’t knock down shots it’s all pretty much irrelevant. Tonight we missed some lay-ups off of back cuts and some easy three opportunities and it cost us.”
In limiting Centerville to 43 points the Beavers were holding them almost 20 points below their average.
“We held one of the best shooters in the GWOC (Kubaszewski) to just two points before he hit some free throws late, and that was by design,” said Back as he feigned a defensive stance. “Our strategy was good and I thought we even executed it pretty well.
“The reality is that we have got to start shooting the ball better if we are going to beat the better teams in the area. I love my guys but we are going to have to start knocking down shots.”