Lakota West’s Julian Mackey puts up a shot during their game against Centerville. Centerville defeated Lakota West 48-40 in their Division I District basketball final Sunday, March 8, 2020 at Xavier University’s Cintas Center. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Boys basketball: Lakota West rally falls short vs. Centerville

He hasn’t coached against the Crusaders since his days at Woodward in the 80s and 90s when he his teams used to beat Carl Kremer’s teams. But Kremer rarely loses now. His Crusaders won a seventh straight district title Sunday, are the two-time defending state champions, gave him his 600th victory and won its 80th straight game against Southwest District teams.

Leon won’t get to renew his old rivalry. His Lakota West team fell 48-40 to Centerville on Sunday in one of four Division I district finals at Cintas Center.

»PHOTOS: Lakota West falls to Centerville

“I really wanted the opportunity to play Moeller,” he said. “I thought maybe I could be the guy that stops that big streak.”

Instead, the Elks (15-11) will face a familiar foe in Moeller (25-1) at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday at Cintas. Lakota East, a 33-32 winner over Beavercreek, meets La Salle in the 8 p.m. semifinal. La Salle defeated St. Xavier 60-52 in overtime.

West (14-12) is used to a faster pace and more scoring, but Centerville imposed its style on the game. West leading scorers Julian Mackey had 16 points and Carter Combs five.

“We knew going in that their size and their length was going to be a problem, and it proved to be true,” Leon said. “Julian and Carter had trouble getting shots off. For them to keep the pace down and play that good defensively, it hurt us.”

Leon loses senior starters Mackey, Combs and Tate Fishman and will miss their leadership. After a 6-2 start to the season, the Firebirds lost six straight, but Leon said it didn’t cause any problems within the team.

“They just kept coming to practice and working, working,” Leon said. “Those five seniors were great leaders.”

Leon is excited that his freshman class might earn him a shot a Moeller eventually. The Firebirds’ freshman team was undefeated, and freshman Nathan Dudukovich played varsity this year. He had eight points, made two 3-pointers and had two steals against Centerville.

“I’m excited about the future,” Leon said. “Things are looking good.”

Centerville led 34-24 entering the fourth quarter. West quickly cut the lead to 34-28, and Centerville coach Brook Cupps got a technical when he objected to an offensive foul called on his team with 6:18 left. At 5:59, Leon reacted strongly to a play and came out on the floor out of the coach’s box and got a technical. Cupps complained to the officials about Leon being out on the floor. Words were exchanged between the coaches. After the free throws, the Elks led 35-30. The lead shrunk to 41-40 on a Mackey 3-pointer, but the Elks scored the final seven points.

“We hung in there,” Leon said. “I was proud of my guys the way they kept fighting.”

After the game, Leon declined to shake hands with Cupps.

“They won the game and give them all the credit,” Leon said. “I acted unprofessionally and I apologize for that. I shook everybody’s hand but his, and if I see him I’ll apologize. Emotion got the best of me.”

Cupps said, “He didn’t want to shake my hand, so that’s fine. It’s heat of the moment. That’s his choice. I get caught up in the moment, too. So I’m not going to judge for him reacting like that. He’s fighting for his kids.”

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