CINCINNATI — The Fairfield High School boys basketball team got its chance at revenge on Saturday.
Unfortunately for the Indians, the result was the same.
Jonathan Powell scored a game-high 21 points, and top-ranked Centerville converted 15 of 18 free throws down the stretch to knock off Fairfield 64-53 in a Division I regional final at Xavier University’s Cintas Center.
“The team that was the most mentally tough was probably going to win it,” Indians coach DJ Wyrick said. “They just made their run at the right time. I didn’t think our guys folded. I don’t think the pressure was there. They just made shots and converted late. We just weren’t able to.
“It was just two really good teams playing a really good game. Somebody’s got to lose.”
Wyrick said the stage wasn’t too big for his squad this time around, and he credited that to seniors Deshawne Crim, Ray Coney and Aamir Rogers.
“They’ve been here before, and the other guys can feed off that,” Wyrick said. “They can follow their lead. It was a really good year. These dudes have a lot to be proud of.”
Centerville (25-3) defeated Fairfield in last year’s regional final before losing in the state championship game to Pickerington Central. The Elks will face Pickerington Central, again, in a state semifinal on Saturday at 5:15 p.m. at UD Arena.
“We were both different teams,” Centerville coach Brook Cupps said in comparison to Fairfield. “We’re both different from what we were last year. They aren’t quite as much. Our personnel being so much different (from last year) changed a lot of the things that we wanted to do.”
Crim, who had a team-high 19 points, became Fairfield’s all-time leading scorer when he drove the lane and bucketed a contested shot that pulled the Indians to within 38-36 with 2:22 left in the third quarter. Crim passed Mike Ruddle, who owned the record since 1967 with 1,342 total points. Crim finished his career with 1,354 points.
Coney had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, while Rogers had six rebounds and two points.
“The weird thing now is that I’ve never been at Fairfield without Crim, Ray and Aamir,” said Wyrick, who wrapped up his fourth season at the helm. “And now I am. It’s just different. It’s going to be different.
“You hope that they’ve laid a foundation and that this is something that we can continue to do,” Wyrick added. “We have the talent to continue to do it. Are we willing to put in the work that these guys put in night in and night out and accept roles — all of the things that go into being a good team? These guys were great teammates, great leaders.”
The Indians, under Wyrick’s watch, have won three straight Greater Miami Conference titles and made two consecutive trips to the regional finals. Fairfield ended its season at 23-5.
“I thought this year we had a little more fight,” Wyrick said. “We were a little more calm in this situation.”
The Indians led for most of the first quarter, but the Elks battled back to take a 10-9 lead into the second frame.
Though Coney scored nine of his points in the second quarter to keep the Indians around, Powell also bucketed nine of his own to power Centerville into the half, 25-20.
“They’ve got guys who have been in this situation. Our guys have also been in this situation many times,” Cupps said. “I was really proud of the poise they showed down the stretch finishing the game.”
Crim scored seven straight points to close out the third quarter to rally the Indians back on top 41-40. Then Centerville’s precision at the line helped the Elks outscore Fairfield in the fourth 24-12 and advance to a third-straight state Final Four appearance.
Baboucarr Njie had 14 points for Centerville, while Indiana signee and Elks senior Gabe Cupps had nine points.
Wyrick said the combination of his senior starters in Crim, Coney and Rogers rank as the three of the most successful players in Fairfield history.
“Ultimately, the guys played their hearts out,” the coach said of the trio. “I told them to be proud of what they accomplished. They have a lot to be proud of.”
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