COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It’s the best time of year. District final weekend has arrived and teams will be tested in the biggest way under the brightest of lights. Let’s take a look at what’s on tap.
Outlook: If you had any plans on doing a robbery in the towns of Richwood or Johnstown, tonight is the night. Don’t expect many businesses to be open or residents to be home as Ohio Dominican is going to be PACKED full of small town people looking for their beloved teams to make history. With that being said, expect Friday’s environment to be raucous, as each fanbase will be looking to make things difficult for the opponent.
North Union has thrived with the support that the small town of Richwood has shown, using the momentum of the crowd to help execute the amazing comeback against Africentric. Friday’s matchup against Johnstown is a better personnel matchup for the Wildcats, who were forced to play zone against Africentric, something they haven’t done much this season. We see the Wildcats going back to a man defense on Friday, as the Johnnies are a team they can run with.
Johnstown is led primarily by juniors Gavin Foe and Jake Lusk, while North Union scores more by committee but can go to junior Preston Crabtree for a bucket whenever they need one. We look forward to seeing Foe and Crabtree go at it, while Lusk and 6-foot-5 senior Derek Foe will bang on the interior with North Union’s front court of 6-foot-5 sophomore Zach Vernon and 6-foot-6 senior Harley Day.
This game will feature a handful of upperclassmen, it could be guys like Johnstown senior Matt Sayer or North Union senior Connor Terrill that hit the big shots down the stretch to secure a district title. This matchup will be extremely competitive, as these two programs are similar in culture and toughness, which could make this game the best of the night, even with the star power of the nightcap.
Players to watch
North Union: Preston Crabtree (6’3 Jr. WG), Connor Terrill (5’10 Sr. PG), Trevyn Feasel (5’11 Jr. WG), Zach Vernon (6’5 So. PF), Harley Day (6’6 Sr. PF)
Johnstown: Gavin Foe (6’3 Jr. PG), Jake Lusk (6’3 Jr. PF), Matt Sayer (6’2 Sr. WG), Derek Foe (6’5 Sr. PF)
Outlook: This is the game in Division III that everyone has been looking for all year. Despite coming off a state title and returning the best player in school history, Harvest Prep was not the darlings of the area at the beginning of the year. That title belonged to Worthington Christian, who many thought had a great chance to dethrone Harvest Prep in 2020. Well the time is now to put up or shut up as these squads will finally meet up.
The battle in the backcourt is as good as it gets between CJ Anthony and DJ Moore. The senior Anthony is the most experienced and accomplished player in the area and will present the toughest matchup that the star sophomore Moore has seen in his career. Anthony leads the area in scoring (both for this season and all-time) and will have an equally challenging matchup against the 6-foot-3 Moore who is playing with great confidence and command as of late.
Neither one of these teams are one man shows, however, as both feature quality supporting casts that have been instrumental in their combined 41-7 record on the year. Worthington Christian gets thing started in the backcourt with Moore and senior Derrick Hardin. Hardin, who is a Mount Vernon Nazarene commit, is one of the area’s elite shooters and earned first team all-district honors alongside Moore and Anthony.
Outside of Moore and Hardin, Worthington Christian has a solid group of contributors in juniors Kobe Buford. Tyler Kindberg, Drew Faieta and seniors Nakimba Mullins and Steven Spayde. Buford has solid size at 6-foot-4 and could see time on Anthony while Kindberg is a rangy 6-foot-3 wing with big-time athleticism. Look for Faieta to stretch the floor and Mullins to provide a strong interior presence for the Warriors alongside 6-foot-5 junior Isaiah Hazelwood, who will likely come off the bench.
For Harvest Prep, Anthony is the source of a great majority of the offense, however, the Warriors have a solid core of guys who do their jobs and contribute where they need to. Coach David Dennis is one of the best in the state at maximizing talent and he’s done that once again after graduating several key seniors from last year’s state title team.
Junior guard Brian Beavers is one of the team’s top scorers at 6-foot-2 and could have a key role in the game. Look for seniors Kenneth Sykes and Malachi Henry to help support Anthony on the offensive end, as both players have taken a major step up this year after coming off the bench for the last few seasons.
The Warriors have two talented freshmen in Nyelle Shaheed and Nicholas Harris who have seen major minutes this year and could be looked upon in Friday’s district final.
Regardless of the supporting casts for each team, this game will more than likely be won between the two star guards in Anthony and Moore. It reminds us a lot of a 2016 district semifinal matchup between Seth Towns and Dane Goodwin where the sophomore Goodwin got the best of the heavily accomplished senior Towns.
Anthony and Harvest Prep will look to flip the script this time around and return to an Athens regional that feels like home to the Warriors. After all, Harvest Prep went 8-0 there in its four trips since 2014.
Players to watch
Harvest Prep: CJ Anthony (6’0 Sr. PG), Brian Beavers (6’2 Jr. WG), Kenneth Sykes (6’0 Sr. G), Malachi Henry (6’4 Sr. WF)
Worthington Christian: DJ Moore (6’3 So. PG), Derrick Hardin (6’2 Sr. WG), Kobe Buford (6’3 Jr. WG), Tyler Kindberg (6’3 Jr. WG)