Kupps leads runners-up Centerville to victory in final home game

CENTERVILLE — Centerville senior Gabe Capps, a two-time all-rounder and 2022 Ohio Mr. Basketball, didn’t save the best game of his high school career for his last home game. But he was playing the Gabe Kupps game, the kind that ends in victory.

“He just appreciates the win,” said his father and coach Brooke Kupps. “Whatever it takes, whatever the cost, that’s what he wants to do and is willing to do to make sure his team wins. And that’s how it’s always been.”

According to Brook Kupps, Senior Night’s emotions had little effect on his son and his teammates in the first half. Their offense was out of sync, they landed some questionable shots, they didn’t shoot very well, and according to Gabe Kupps, they gave the Fairmont too many direct hits to the basket.

So when a Fairmont player passed Gabe on his Senior Night with a straight drive, he made the same winning game as he did four years as the Elks’ starting point guard. He pushed and blocked a shot from behind, pinning the ball against the backboard. That game, two interceptions and several quick, accurate passes to open shooters marked Capps’ Friday night first-half play against Fairmont.

He didn’t score until the middle of the third quarter. He then scored 12 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, including 8 of 8 from the free throw line, to lead the Elks to a 57–42 win over Fairmont.

The game, as always, was the main one for the Elks (17-2, 12-0 Greater Western Ohio Conference). But he couldn’t get past Capps’ last home game and five others, including Emmanuel Deng and Kyle Kenny, two guys he’s played with since he moved to Centerville in second grade.

“I really never thought tonight would even come,” said Gabe Kupps. “It was definitely weird. It doesn’t look like I expected it.”

When Capps was the last player introduced and walked with his parents and sister to center court, his emotions surprised him.

“I thought I would feel more emotional and sad, but I was more sad because of other older people,” he said. “Watching everyone else leave and realizing that they will never play here again, for some reason, that means more to me. It was the same with Tom (House) and Rich (Rolf) last year.”

Brooke Kupps had another night in peace with the seniors and expressed his gratitude for being able to coach another group of seniors and experience so much with his son, including the 2021 Division I State Championship.

“There’s an old quote that Dr. Seuss said: don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened,” said the coach, whose team comes second in the state’s Associated Press poll this week. “That’s definitely how I try to look at it. He has great opportunities ahead of him, but fortunately for us, he appreciates the present moment and wants to make the most of the opportunities here.”

The future for Gabe is a college career in Indiana. A gift to all Elks means two more wins for a fifth consecutive GWOC title and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming tournament. The path to such great success for the Elks began when Brooke Capps left his alma mater in Graham to coach in Centerville. The move gave Gabe his first opportunity to play on an organized team as a third grader with Deng and Kenny.

“I asked my dad why he moved here and he said he wanted to give me and (sister) Ellie more options,” Gabe said. “I think it worked out pretty well. There are a lot of opportunities here and it’s a great place to go to school, a great place to play.”

Fairmont (10-10, 7-5) was the Elks’ seventh consecutive opponent but was the GWOC team that pushed the Elks the hardest, including a two-point regional semi-final loss last year. Firebirds coach Kenny Moltz loves what his team has become over the past couple of weeks and showed on Friday.

“Our guys played well today, very selflessly,” he said. “We don’t really care who gets the recognition, who gets the points. This is our shot, not my shot, the typical mentality.”

The Firebirds are on their way to third place in the GWOC and could take 3rd place in the group stage.

“No matter where we are at the end of the year with wins, losses and how far we’ve come in the tournament,” Moltz said, “if we play right and play together, whenever it’s done, you can walk away with your head held high.” and have no regrets.”

Centerville Hall of Fame: Four new members of the school’s sports hall of fame were introduced at halftime. The inductees are Michael Bennett (football/athletics), Scott Chillinsky (football/track and field), Patrick Reynolds (boys’ volleyball head coach, baseball/football assistant coach), and Kyle Rose (football/wrestling).

Bennett (2011) was a state lineman who played for the 2014 Ohio National Championship team and was drafted by Jacksonville in 2015. He played three seasons in the NFL. He was a state champion and an All-American track and field thrower.

Chillinski (2004) was a state quarterback and played college in Cincinnati. In track and field, he was a full-time staff with the relay team and in the 400 meters.

Reynolds coached the boys’ volleyball team in six straight Final Fours and won state titles in 2001 and 2002. He also coached the JV baseball team for 17 years and won 214 games.

Rose (2011) received several GWOC awards as a quarterback and played in West Virginia for four years. As a wrestler, he has the best record in school history at 140-24. As a senior, he won the state championship and finished the season 35-0.

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