By Tom Gamble, GCL South Commissioner
For the second straight game, sophomore Alex Williams came off the bench to provide a spark, scoring a game-high 16 points while teammates Max Land and Miles McBride combined to score 28 points, grab 11 rebounds and sink all nine of their free-throw attempts to lead Moeller to a 59-41 victory against Centerville and win a third straight Cincinnati Division I regional championship in the Ohio High School Athletic Association Basketball State Tournament on Saturday night at Xavier University’s Cintas Center.
The victory sends the defending Division I state champions back to the Final Four in Columbus and a matchup with Cleveland region winner Lakewood St. Edward in the state semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday at the Jerome C. Schottenstein Center on The Ohio State University campus.
Moeller, which has now won 14 straight postseason games and 47 games in a row overall dating back to late December 2017, last lost to an Ohio team on March 25, 2017 when the Crusaders fell to Massillon Jackson, 39-38, in the DI title game – the only setback that season. Moeller came back last season to defeat Solon, 83-65, in the state final and win the fourth state basketball championship in school history.
St. Edward (18-8) advanced with a win against Green last night at Cleveland State University to win the Cleveland regional and advance to the Final Four. Powell Olentangy Liberty (24-4), the Columbus winner, will face Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (23-3), the Akron/Toledo region winner, in the second semifinal at 8 p.m. Friday. Olentangy Liberty advanced with a 64-58 win over Pickerington North at Ohio Dominican University, while St. Vincent-St. Mary defeated Lima Senior, 79-63, in its regional final at the University of Akron.
The DI state final is 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
In Columbus, Moeller and Purcell Marian will attempt to make it 3-for-4 for the Greater Catholic League at the state basketball tournament. Mount Notre Dame – a member of the Girls’ GCL - capped off another outstanding season by using a 16-0 run in the fourth quarter to blow open a close game and post a 52-31 victory against defending state champion Pickerington Central Saturday night at OSU and win the big-school state title for the second time in three years and seventh time in program history – tying two other schools for the most state championships in girls’ basketball history. Mt. Notre Dame finished the season with a 27-2 record.
Moeller, which competes in the all-boys’ GCL South, will be joined at state by Purcell Marian from the GCL Co-Ed Division. The Cavaliers, making their first Final Four appearance since 2000 – advanced with a 67-56 win over Anna in a Division III regional final at Trent Arena in Kettering. Purcell Marian (24-4) will oppose Canal Winchester Harvest Prep (26-2) at OSU at noon Thursday in the state semifinals. Harvest Prep beat Wheelersburg, 52-38, yesterday at Ohio University to win the Athens regional. The DIII title game is 10:45 a.m. Saturday.
Purcell Marian’s last trek to state was in 2000. The Cavaliers won the Class AAA state crown in 1985, a season in which they were picked to finish last in the GCL (which had no divisions at the time) and wound up finishing 24-3, winning their final 14 games, under coach Jim Stoll. The Cavaliers defeated Mansfield Senior, 66-57, in the state final behind 33 points from Dave Minor – who went on to play at Indiana University and was a member of the Hoosiers’ 1987 national championship team.
Against Centerville, Moeller held a 13-11 lead after one quarter. The Crusaders then came alive to outscore the Elks, who were riding an 18-game winning streak entering the game, 14-8 and 13-7 in the second and third quarters, respectively, to build their advantage to 40-26 entering the final eight minutes. Moeller, which has shot free throws well all season, was able to ice the game by connecting on 12-of-15 from the line.
Besides going a perfect 7-of-7 from the field, Williams also played solid defense on Centerville’s 6-foot-9 junior Mo Njie – who was coming off a triple-double with 14 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocked shots in the Elks’ 67-63 victory against Springfield in Wednesday’s regional semifinals. Njie had two points, four rebounds and five blocks against the tough Moeller defense, which held the Elks to 15-of-41 shooting from the field for 36.6 percent. Centerville hurt itself by converting just 6-of-15 free throws for 40 percent. Moeller also outrebounded the Elks, 31-20.
Land, who played outstanding defense against Lakota East standout Bash Wieland in the Crusaders’ 47-33 semifinal win Wednesday at XU, was 5-of-9 from the field to finish with 15 points, made all five free throws and grabbed six rebounds. McBride, a West Virginia University signee, had his usual solid all-around game with 13 points (4-of-4 from the line), to go along with six assists and five rebounds with Mountaineers’ coach Bob Huggins among those on hand to watch Moeller defeat Centerville for the second time this season. Moeller also won, 54-33, on January 5 at Moeller during the regular season.
Centerville (22-6) wraps up an outstanding season that included tying Springfield at 10-2 to share the Greater Western Ohio Conference Cardinal Division championship. The Elks faced Moeller without starting guard Ryan Marchal, who was forced to sit out after receiving two technical fouls in the final few minutes of the Elks’ win against Springfield and was suspended. Marchal is the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 9.6 points, and leads the Elks with four assists per game. Centerville’s only two losses in 2019 are to Moeller.