After 22 games, Roger Culbertson thought he knew what to expect from his Tecumseh High school boys basketball team. But he didn’t recognize his team in the first half Tuesday night against Centerville in a Division I sectional semifinal.
“We came out scared,” Culbertson said. “Very uncharacteristic of what we’ve done all year, offensively for sure.”
By the time the Arrows began to play fearlessly, it was too late. An 18-point halftime deficit was cut to eight in the third quarter, but Centerville responded and held on for a 53-41 victory at Trent Arena.
The sixth-seeded Arrows (18-5) scored three points in the first quarter and trailed the No. 9 Elks (14-10) 31-13 at halftime.
“We went through a stretch there in the second quarter where we really did the stuff that we wanted to do,” Centerville coach Brook Cupps said.
Tecumseh, looking for its first tournament win since 2003, responded in the third quarter behind junior point guard Dalton Davis. He scored twice on drives and once on a 3-pointer to close the quarter with the Elks leading 36-28. Davis continued to keep the Arrows within striking distance in the fourth by continuing to make difficult shots going to the basket and finished with a game-high 20 points.
“We were better obviously with the ball in his hands,” Culbertson said. “He was obviously the leader tonight on the floor.”
Tecumseh shot 39.3 percent from 3-point range this season, so Cupps said the strategy was to guard Davis one-on-one and stay with the other 3-point shooters. Davis took advantage and the Arrows made five 3-pointers, but they did get their usual number of wide-open shots.
Centerville started the fourth quarter with a 5-0 run to push the lead back to 41-28. The Arrows never got closer than nine again.
“Our kids took some punches there in the third and got their feet back under them in the fourth and got more aggressive,” Cupps said.
The Elks play No. 8 Miamisburg (17-7) at 5:30 Saturday at the Nutter Center for the sectional championship. Eric Meininger and Austin Recker led the Elks with 13 points apiece.
Tecumseh returns most of its team next season with the exception of senior Gabe Berner. He led the Arrows in scoring this year, but he was held to one point and battled foul trouble.
“I feel for him – he’s a tremendous kid,” Culbertson said. “He’s in their bawling his eyes out right now. I’m sure he feels he let his teammates down. He didn’t let anybody down.”