TROTWOOD — Xenia head coach Kent Anderson was a torn man, moments after his Buccaneers boys basketball squad had bowed out of the Division I sectional tournament with a 63-51 loss to the top-seeded Centerville Elks, March 1 at Trotwood-Madison High School.
On the one hand, Anderson was proud of how his team had battled back from a 21-point second-half deficit.
On the other, he was frustrated that his Bucs had dug themselves into that kind of a hole in the first place.
“We knew this was going to be a tall task, but we didn’t show any kind of poise early on,” he said. “We just kinda stood around, didn’t move much, didn’t screen, didn’t cut, and got ourselves in a hole.
“Then they go on a second-half run and suddenly you’re in a huge hole … and then our kids work their butts off an almost get out of it.”
Xenia had trailed 31-21 at the half, then a 13-0 Elks third-quarter scoring binge put Centerville out in front 46-25 with 1:55 remaining to be played in the quarter. A Noah Crawford jumper from the right, and a Samari Curtis free throw, then enabled the Buccaneers to close to within 18 points (46-28) with one quarter left to play.
The underdog Bucs applied full-court pressure on each Elks fourth-quarter possession in hopes of getting a turnover and scoring a quick bucket at the other end, and the strategy enabled Xenia to claw back within nine points. Scores from Curtis and Dylan Hoosier led to a 13-2 Xenia scoring run, to close within nine points of Centerville at 54-45 with 1:29 left to play, but the Elks outscored the Bucs 9-6 the rest of the way.
Curtis, the Greater Western Ohio Conference’s scoring leader with a 33.8 points per game average, exploded for 19 points in the fourth quarter.
“He makes it tough for you to guard him, mainly because he can put you in binds and get you in foul trouble, and get to the free throw line,” Centerville coach Brook Cupps said of Curtis, who was named the Division I Southwest District Player of the Year earlier in the day. “If he was just a shooter, it would be one thing. But he has that ability to draw fouls and give you problems on defense.”
Cupps praised Elks senior Jason Sneed for his defensive effort against Curtis, saying he did a good job of contesting Curtis’s shoots throughout the game.
Curtis led Xenia with a game-best 24 points, and Hoosier finished with 17. Jate Bradley finished with eight points and Crawford added two.
Elks senior guard Matt Pearce finished with 23 points, and Ryan Marchal scored 14 to lead Centerville, who will face Mason (a 60-50 winner over Milford) in the District final. That game will take place on Saturday, March 9 at UD Arena in Dayton, with the time of the contest yet to be determined.
Xenia’s Anderson said he was completely torn after Friday night’s loss.
“I’ve loved this basketball team all year, just because of their chemistry and their togetherness,” he said. “They get along, they’re fun to be around, they practice well, they’re good students, they’re good kids and good community citizens. I’m just so proud of these kids.
“It doesn’t surprise me that we came back the way we did, just because of their character. But it’s just disappointing that we’d dug such a hole to try and get out of. If we’d have been closer, we might’ve been able to finish the way we had against Miamisburg (a come-from-behind win in overtime). Centerville’s a well-oiled machine, though. You’ve gotta give them credit. They’ve won 16 games in a row now, and they have a lot of talent over there.
“It just wasn’t our night.”
Xenia seniors Bradley, Daviohn Boccara, Blayne Dudley, Husain Akinyele, Curtis, Crawford and Johnzel Gray played their last games for the Bucs.
“The whole group gave us tremendous leadership,” Anderson said. “They worked everybody hard in practice every day, and they probably don’t get the credit for doing that. … The entire seven seniors as a group, I’m going to be disappointed to see them go, because of the kinds of quality kids they are.”
Contact John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.