Hamilton falls to Centerville in regional semifinal

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

CINCINNATI — Andrea Holden never doubted how far the Hamilton High School boys basketball team could go this season.

“We started off good — hoping to be where we were at,” the 6-foot-6 senior forward said. “We proved a lot of people wrong. We proved that we belonged here.”

The Big Blue certainly did.

Marlon Reed scored a team-high 13 points and Holden had 12 points and 12 rebounds as Hamilton fell to Centerville 60-35 in a Division I regional semifinal on Wednesday night at Xavier University’s Cintas Center.

“I think we achieved a lot,” Big Blue coach Kevin Higgins said. “Obviously, it was a great experience. I wish we would have played a little better in the second half, but they have a lot to do with it. There’s a reason why people think that they have a chance to win state. They showed that in the second half.”

Hamilton (16-10) secured the program’s highest win total since going 18-7 in 2019-2020. The Big Blue last competed in a regional game when they went on to capture the state title with a 51-48 victory over Toledo St. John’s Jesuit on March 27, 2004.

“That’s a great experience,” Higgins said. “I think this group proves to a lot of people that if a group competes — believes in each other — some things can happen.

“It’s really hard to get here. I don’t think people realize how hard it is to get here out of Southwest Ohio.”

Centerville (18-8) plays top-ranked Moeller (26-1) in the regional finals at noon Saturday at Xavier. Moeller knocked off Elder 39-35 on Wednesday.

Centerville closed the series gap to 3-2 against Hamilton. The two programs hadn’t played since the 1999-2000 season when the Big Blue won 41-38 in the tournament.

Jonathan Powell scored a game-high 21 points and Ethan Greenberg had 17 for the Elks, who shot 9 of 15 (60%) from 3-point range.

“We knew what we had to do to work on the right stuff in practice to prepare us for the game,” Powell said. “We knew they had a little Cinderella story going.”

The Elks went on a 12-2 run that spanned into the second quarter, giving them a 25-14 lead. The Big Blue closed the first half out on a 9-2 spurt capped by a Reed 3-pointer just before the buzzer sounded to pull it to within 27-23.

Centerville shot 10 of 17 (58.8%) from the floor and its defense held Hamilton to just 12 points in the second half.

“We strung some stops together, and that helps. You get kind of in a rhythm offensively,” Elks coach Brook Cupps said. “I thought (Powell) did a good job of picking great shots. We got the ball in the lane. In the first half, we were getting it there and making kind of bad decisions with it, or we were settling for 3s without attacking the rim. I thought in the second half we did a much better job of that. Once we made a couple jumpers, then we had them spread out a little bit and could attack a little bit more off the dribble.”

Cupps said his Elks weren’t defensively labeled as being hard-nosed throughout the season. But that’s changed during their tournament run.

“That’s a little unusual. That’s kind of how we are,” Cupps said. “This group is now starting to get it.”

Jamar Montgomery’s defensive awareness caused fits for the Big Blue, and once he got into foul trouble late, Cohen Ellis stepped in to pick things up.

“They’re hard to guard with all of their actions and the quickness that they have,” Cupps said. “We went a little bit of zone, which I thought was good to mix in. Our guys have done a really good job of playing it. We hadn’t played 20 possessions of that throughout the season. But we’ve worked on it all year. Now, it’s times like this it comes in handy.”

Hamilton graduates Deon’dre Tillery, Demetrius Berry, Mason King and Holden. Higgins said this season will set a higher standard for Hamilton.

“I thought we were a tough team all year,” Higgins said. “We had some ups and downs. We don’t necessarily have the best players in the world not to have some ups and downs. These guys persevered through things. We beat a lot of good teams. I think we were competitive in every game except this one in the second half — which we’re going to hold our head high.

“It was a great experience. I don’t know how many years I have left in me, but this will be one I’ll definitely remember.”

About the Author