COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Columbus will be heaven for hoop heads starting on Thursday with both the NCAA tournament and Ohio high school state tournament running concurrently. While we will save NCAA coverage for later in the weekend, let's take a look at our last of three state tournament previews for the Central Ohio programs competing for titles - ending with Harvest Prep.
Welcome back to The Schott for the fourth time in six years, Harvest Prep. While the Warriors are no stranger to the state tournament, Harvest Prep is still searching for its first state title in school history. The Warriors have a highly difficult path ahead, as all four teams in the Division III state tournament are high quality programs with big-time talent.
Harvest Prep rolled through the sectional, district and regional tournaments by winning all six games by an average margin of 32 points. The Warriors were challenged by Columbus Academy in the district final, powering in the final minute to a 71-67 victory.
The regional tournament proved to be not much of a challenge, as Harvest Prep rolled over Adena in the semifinals by 41 before taking down previously unbeaten Wheelersburg in the final. Harvest Prep was held scoreless in the second quarter against the Pirates, but pulled through in the second half to secure the regional title.
Going up against a very tough Purcell Marian squad out of Cincinnati, Harvest Prep has its work cut out in the state semifinals. The Cavaliers have won 24 of its last 26 games with their only losses coming to Centerville and Archbishop Moeller, two teams who battled in the Dayton Division I regional final last weekend.
Harvest Prep and Purcell Marian will kick off the state tournament as Thursday's semifinal will begin at 12 p.m. at Value City Arena on the campus of The Ohio State University.
Thursday, March 21 - 12 p.m. (OSU)
Outlook: Woah. What a game to open up the state tournament with. This might just be the best state semifinal game across all four divisions as two senior laden teams with big time players will do battle in the opener.
Purcell Marian navigated through a tough schedule all season long with its last two losses coming to Division I powerhouses Moeller and Centerville. The Cavaliers have a giant front line led by 6-foot-4 senior Alex Dotson, who earned district player of the year honors in Cincinnati. Dotson averages a team-best 13.3 points per game, while shooting 40.6 percent from three.
Dotson is joined by 6-foot-6 seniors AJ Garrett and Bryan Warah, who are both shooting higher than 60 percent from the field with the big-bodied Warah leading the team at 69.2 percent. This group has plenty of versatility, size and shooting, as reserve junior guard Jared Baldock is the team's top three-point shooter, knocking in 37 triples at a 39.4 percent clip.
Look for this group to challenge a Harvest Prep team that dominated the vast, vast majority of its schedule. Only four of its 26 wins have come within double digits, as the Warriors haven't faced a whole lot of adversity this season due to its dominance.
Junior guard CJ Anthony, the Division III state player of the year, leads Harvest Prep with 25.1 points, five rebounds, four assists and 4.2 steals per game. Anthony has dominated all season long and will need another big performance in order to get the Warriors into the state final.
Surrounding him is a cast of four seniors who all average between nine and 10 points per game. Senior guard Brandon Beavers is the best of the bunch, as he gets it done on both ends of the floor, averaging 10.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists and four steals per game. The 6-foot-2 guard is the team's best perimeter defender and is part of the reason the Warriors are so good in transition.
Senior wings Andrew Tate and Soul Hines each average nine points per game. Tate is a two-way energy guy with great length at 6-foot-5, while Hines is the team's best three-point shooter and provides Harvest Prep with much-needed versatility. Rounding out the starting five is 6-foot-5 senior Elijah Glenn, who is the team's top post threat and a reliable shooter from distance. Glenn averages 10 points, eight rebounds and three assists per contest.
Both teams have quality bench players and enough depth to go the distance this weekend. Harvest Prep lives and dies by the three, as the Warriors will need to be clicking on all cylinders against a Purcell Marian team that will be intent on controlling the glass and creating high percentage looks on the offensive end.
This one could go either way, as both teams come in hot as ever. We wouldn't be surprised to see the winner of this game move on to win the state championship. For Harvest Prep, if the Warriors can take home the state this year, it will be the first time a Central Ohio team has won a Division III state title since Sparta Highland in 1998.
Saturday, March 23 at 10:45 a.m. (OSU)