Wilmington High School boys basketball coach Michael Noszka and Centerville head coach Brook Cupps have become good friends ever since their near meeting back in 2009.
In the Div. I Cincinnati Regional tournament that season at Xavier’s Cintas Center, Cupps was coaching St. Paris Graham against Bishop Watterson while Noszka was leading Wilmington against Dayton Thurgood Marshall. The Hurricane lost to Marshall that year while Bishop Watterson defeated Graham.
“That’s when Cupps and I became coaching buddies,” Noszka said. “We were playing on this very floor.”
They didn’t meet seven years ago, but the two will lead their teams into battle Saturday night when Wilmington and Centerville square off at 7 p.m. with a berth in the state Final Four on the line.
“It’s funny, we thought we’d meet then, but now who woulda thought it would be Centerville and Wilmington for the regional championship,” Noszka said after Wednesday’s semifinal game.
Wilmington comes into the game at 26-1 and fresh off a 40-37 win over Cincinnati Moeller. Centerville is 17-10 and defeated Lakota East on Wednesday, 37-36, to advance to the regional finale.
“Brook Cupps is as good a coach as I know at any level,” Noszka said. “He will have a gameplan to beat us, that we have to consider. Brooks is just really good at getting into the finer details. Actually, our programs are very, very similar, especially in the half-court offense.”
Noszka said both teams run a motion style of offense. The Elks, Noszka said, are “going to be hard to guard Saturday night.”
Keegan Saben, a 6-3 junior, was Centerville’s top scorer this season at 18 points a game. He scored just seven against Lakota East. Sam Lash, a 6-4 junior, had six against East and Kyle Fedewa, a 6-5 senior, scored three. They are the top players for Elks, but because of injury have not been on the floor together a lot this season, Noszka said. While Saben played in each regular season game, Lash missed four and Fedewa missed 11.
The trio is healthy now and with Kevin Meiners, who led the Elks with 12 points off the bench Wednesday, they present a formidable foe for the Hurricane.
Despite losing the final three games of the regular season, Centerville has won five post-season games, including a stunning 58-38 win over Cincinnati LaSalle in the district championship game. Among common opponents, the Elks lost to Moeller by six during the season while defeating Springfield and Lakota East. Wilmington split with Moeller and defeated both Springfield and Lakota East.
Regardless of the upcoming opponent and previous scores, Noszka and Co. have one goal Saturday night.
“All we talked about today (Thursday) at practice was getting better,” the coach said. “We want to be better on Saturday.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports.