CINCINNATI — One of the smallest schools in Ohio’s big-school division vanquished another giant and will be playing on the state’s biggest stage next weekend in Columbus.
Wilmington, Ohio’s fourth-smallest Division I school, dismantled the Centerville Elks, home to three times as many boys, 48-28, to be the first Clinton County school to advance to a state hoops Final Four in four generations.
Jefferson Township High School, which consolidated with Blanchester for the 1959-60 school year, achieved the Final Four feat in 1930.
The Hurricane, 27-1 and ranked third in the final Associated Press poll, will now head to The Ohio State University’s Value City Arena in search of the county’s first basketball state title. It’ll play second-ranked and unbeaten Lima Senior at 5:15 p.m. Friday. The other semifinal will pit 10th-ranked Westerville South vs. ninth-ranked Garfield Heights at 8:30 p.m.
Associated Press Southwest District Player of the Year Jarron Cumberland led all scorers with 17 points and 11 rebounds. He left the game to a standing ovation with 2:09 left in the contest.
“Cumberland’s a player, he’s a difference-maker,” said Centerville head coach Brook Cupps. “And their role players played really well. We could never really get it going.”
Cam Stewart joined Cumberland in double-figures with 11.
“I expected us to play really, really hard. We’re not going to back down from anything,” Wilmington head coach Mike Noszka said. “When (Jarron) plays with that intensity level, everybody else feeds off it. It’s scary for the other team. He’s the best player in the state of Ohio. When he’s engaged like that, look out.”
Wilmington hit the Cintas Center court at Xavier University with the ferocity of junkyard dogs. It scored 17 of the first 19 points. After Centerville scored the first basket of the game, the Elks went more than a quarter without a point.
The Elks (17-11) ended the quarter 1-of-11 from the field and went into the intermission shooting just 4-of-23. Meanwhile the Hurricane hit 6-of-10 from the field in the first quarter and 10-of-15 for the half.
Wilmington was up 20 with two minutes left in the second quarter, 27-7, and held the Elks below double-figures until just before the break.
Even with starters Alex Miller and Chris Wolary sidelined with foul trouble the back half of the second period, the Hurricane never let up.
It was more of the same in the third quarter as Wilmington held Centerville to six points and 2-of-8 shooting.
“They dominated the game in all points,” said Cupps. “They outplayed us.”
Wilmington’s largest lead was 37-12 with a little less than a minute left in the third period.
“A program like (Centerville) isn’t going to quit,” Noszka said. “We just talked about being relentless. That’s a pretty darn good display of high school basketball. This is the regional final. That’s a team that beat LaSalle by 20. They’ve played well with a lot of good teams this year.”
The Hurricane spent much of the fourth quarter bleeding the clock before the starters headed to the bench to a rousing ovation with a minute remaining in the contest.
Keegan Saben led the Elks with seven points.
Shawn covers high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @twinzdad01.