Published: Saturday, March 09, 2013 @ 7:47 PM
Updated: Saturday, March 09, 2013 @ 7:47 PM
By: Marc Pendleton - Staff Writer
DAYTON — March Madness has a different meaning for our best Division I area high school boys basketball teams. Might as well rechristen their postseason Black Saturday.
Springboro was the last in line to do what no area D-I team has done since 2009: win a district championship. The Panthers played the last of four games late Saturday night at UD Arena. They faced a daunting task: Mighty Cincinnati Moeller.
Earlier Centerville, then Wayne fell. The Elks (15-11) were game for a half, then wilted to far superior Cincinnati Walnut Hills, 68-54. Wayne (21-5) left its game in Huber Heights and was dismantled 59-43 by Cincinnati La Salle.
District D-I finals, traditionally played on Saturday, have not been kind to area teams. Last year Troy, Beavercreek and Springboro all were leveled. In 2011 it was Troy, Wayne, Trotwood-Madison and Meadowdale going down. In 2010, Fairmont, Trotwood, Wayne and Northmont fizzled.
No area team has advanced to a D-I regional since Matt Kavanaugh’s free throw with less than one second left was the difference in Centerville’s 52-51 shading of Trotwood-Madison in a 2009 district final.
Since then, Trotwood was been reclassified as D-II and Centerville has rebooted under first-year coach Brook Cupps.
One or two seasons of area D-I teams not advancing past this level are lean years. Four years is a trend. How has this happened?
“It’s a different mentality at La Salle and St. X and Moeller, the (Greater Catholic League) schools,” Wayne coach Travis Trice said. “They have things set in place. They’re holding those guys more accountable. It’s more like a military standing. We gotta be tougher on our kids. That’s the bottom line to it.”
Trice is old-school that way. So are many of his area peers. That’s a tough sell. I could never write some of the best stories I’ve been told by various coaches about that subject through the years.
The GCL style of D-I hoop hasn’t changed. Best to gird yourself with a neck roll when playing these often-undersized over- achievers. It’s usually ugly, physical and effective.
Five times since 2003 GCL teams have played for state titles, winning twice. To do that, dismantling an area team in a district final is a given.
It’s the system that works so well for the GCL, not the style. Trice conceded as much.
“Here in the Dayton area or coaching at Wayne, guys think that they’re entitled to something and they don’t necessarily have to work as hard,” he said. “In the GCL, the bottom line is they come with more of a hard-hat mentality. They’re used to doing what they’re told to do. Here, it’s really tough for us. A lot of cases we’re dealing with kids who have to work to be mentally tough and just aren’t.”
Cupps is the new guy in the D-I metro coaching fraternity. In many ways, he groomed a small-school GCL way of doing things at Graham. The Falcons bought in. So have the Elks.
It wasn’t long ago that Centerville was a district final regular. That 2009 team won its fourth district championship in eight years.
It took half a season for Cupps to win over the Elks with his new style of commitment. The rest could be Centerville program history in the making.
“It’s interesting. It’s been a fun part of it for me, just seeing the change,” Cupps said.
“One of my biggest concerns of leaving Graham and coming here was the kids. I didn’t know the kids. I knew that the kids at Graham were great kids and would do anything that I asked them to do and were fully invested. I told these guys that they’ve given us the exact same thing. They’re as bought-in and committed to what we want to try to do.”
None of what Trice and Cupps reflected on are guaranteed difference-makers at the district level. But at this point, they sure are good building blocks.