Moeller One Win Away From Hoops Regional Final

03/10/2016

Posted on 3/9/2016 at 3:32 p.m.  

Crusaders Take Seven-Game Winning Streak Into Tonight’s Semifinals

After Moeller dropped consecutive Greater Catholic League South Division games to Elder and La Salle, and then learned that senior point guard Nate Georgeton would be lost for the remainder of the season with a knee injury, things weren’t exactly looking up for the Crusaders.  But a strong resolve, stringy defense and a few guys stepping up down the stretch, has the Crusaders two wins away from a regional championship.

Moeller (23-3), which as won seven straight games after the brief two-game league losing streak last month, will attempt to defeat Wilmington (25-1) for the second time this season when the two schools meet in in the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I Regional Tournament at 8 tonight at Xavier University’s Cintas Center.  Moeller defeated Wilmington, 40-31, on January 23 at Moeller – the Quakers’ lone loss in 2015-16.

Lakota East (18-7), which knocked off defending state champion, previously undefeated and the state’s top-ranked team in Huber Heights Wayne in Saturday’s district final at Wright State University, faces Centerville (16-10) in tonight’s first semifinal, at 6:15.  The semifinal winners meet at 7 p.m. Saturday at Cintas Center, with the winner advancing to the OHSAA Final Four on March 18 in Columbus.

After back-to-back losses to La Salle and Elder to begin February, coupled with Georgeton’s season-ended knee injury that occurred early in the fourth quarter against Elder, it appeared that Moeller would not earn at least a share of the GCL South championship for the fourth consecutive year and that a postseason run was anything but a viable possibility.  Think again.

The Crusaders regrouped, with sophomore guard Isaiah Payton stepping into the starting lineup and senior guard Kenny Wead stepping up his game off the bench to win its final three regular season games, including a 43-41 home win over La Salle that earned Moeller a share of the GCL South title with Elder and La Salle for the second straight season.  Moeller won outright league titles in 2012-13 and 2013-14.

In the postseason, Moeller has won four straight games – including a 61-58 overtime win against Oak Hills, a game in which Wead scored a career-high 16 points, and then a come-from-behind 64-58 win over Springfield in the district final – with Peyton scoring 15 points and Wead hitting the go-ahead three-point shot with 2:12 remaining.  Springfield knocked Moeller out of the postseason last year in the regional semifinals.

It won’t be easy against Wilmington, though.  The Quakers are coming off a convincing 63-38 win over Mason, which entered Saturday’s district final having won 22 straight games.  But Wilmington, which won its first district title since 2009 in the process, got a solid performance from senior forward and University of Cincinnati recruit Jarron Cumberland, who finished with a game-high 35 points and keyed a third-quarter run for his team.

Mason had rallied to within one point, 28-27, with just under three minutes remaining in the third quarter when Wilmington erupted for a 23-2 run – keyed by 18 points from Cumberland – to put the game away.  Cumberland scored the last 10 points of the third quarter.  Last week, Cumberland was named the Associated Press Southwest District Division I Player of the Year after averaging 38.5 points a game this season.

However, in Moeller’s 40-31 victory over Wilmington in the regular season, Cumberland was held to 14 points on just 4-of-10 shooting from the field.  The Quakers opened the game by taking a 16-11 lead after one quarter, with Cumberland connecting on three three-point goals and scoring nine points in the first eight minutes.  Moeller held Wilmington to just four field goals in the final three quarters.

This season, Moeller has relied on a solid defense all season – along with balanced scoring.  Against Springfield, junior Keegan McDowell paced the Crusaders with 18 points, and seniors Sam McCracken and Trey McBride each added 10 to join McDowell and Payton in double figures.  McBride is Moeller’s leading scorer, averaging 11, but coach Carl Kremer’s team has had five players average 6.8 points or better all season.

The two schools split a pair of meetings last season, with Wilmington getting 27 points from Cumberland in a 61-46 victory during the regular season at Wilmington.  In that game, Cumberland hit 10-of-12 field goals, including 5-of-6 three-pointers.  Moeller came back to post a 46-43 win over Wilmington in the district final, holding Cumberland to 4-of-15 shooting, including 0-of-5 from three-point range.

Advance tickets to tonight’s regional semifinals, which are good for both games, are $7 and available during school hours in the Moeller Athletics Department.  Tickets are $8 at the gate, and can be purchased at the Cintas Center Box Office.