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Division III District Final Preview

By Zach Fleer, 03/06/20, 2:45PM EST

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Previewing the Division III district finals at Ohio Dominican

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.

District Final Fast Facts

  • Harvest Prep makes its sixth trip to the district finals in the last seven years. The Warriors have been really successful at the district level, going 4-1 in its last five appearances. When Harvest Prep has won a district, they’ve advanced to the state tournament all four times since 2014 and will be favored once again in the Athens regional if they’re to get by Worthington Christian.
  • CJ Anthony enters Friday’s district final as the area’s all-time leading scorer carrying a 96-12 record in his career. Anthony is 49-1 in MSL-Cardinal play, has two district titles, two regional titles and one state title. The senior guard was named Division III state player of the year as a junior and has won the last two district player of the year awards in the area. There aren’t many players, ever, in the history of the Central District with a stronger resume than Anthony. 
  • Worthington Christian is back in the district finals for the first time since 2017. The Warriors are looking to get back to the glory days of the mid 2010s when they won three-straight districts from 2012-2014. A win on Friday would be Worthington Christian’s 12th district title in school history, all coming since 1994.
  • Worthington Christian has won 12-straight games, not losing since it dropped a game at home against Whitehall on Jan. 11. 
  • Harvest Prep has won 9-straight games, not losing since a road overtime loss at Olentangy Liberty on Jan. 18.
  • North Union has a chance to win only its second district title in school history and its first since 1970. With its win over Africentric last Tuesday, North Union set a decade-high for wins, surpassing the 23 victories the Wildcats amassed during the 2012-13 season.
  • North Union has won 24-straight games and are the only undefeated team remaining in the Central District after Heath lost to DeSales last Wednesday. The Wildcats overcame a double-digit deficit in the final nine minutes of its district semifinal win over Africentric, executing a game-ending 20-2 run.
  • Johnstown has a chance to win its first district title since 2016 and fourth in program history. The Johnnies are appearing in a third-straight district final after losing to Grandview Heights last year and Africentric in 2018. Johnstown has gone 1-3 in its last four trips to the district final round.
  • Johnstown has won 9-straight games, not losing since a road matchup at DeSales on Jan. 28. The Johnnies have won its last two tournament games as the lower-seeded team and will look to complete the trifecta on Friday.
  • Johnstown makes its third-straight trip to the district finals despite featuring its third different head coach during that span. 

#3 North Union (24-0) vs. #7 Johnstown (18-7)

 
Ohio Dominican University - 6 p.m.
 
  • #3 North Union (24-0)
    • Last district title: 1970
    • Last appearance: 2013
    • Three-year record: 49-22
    • Tournament path: W, 71-55 vs. #9 Amanda-Clearcreek - W, 40-26 vs. #16 West Jefferson - W, 51-44 vs. #5 Africentric
  • #7 Johnstown (18-7)
    • Last district title: 2016
    • Last appearance: 2019
    • Three-year record: 54-20
    • Tournament path: W, 66-54 vs. #17 Liberty Union - W, 55-35 vs. #6 Centerburg - W, 56-47 vs. #4 Bishop Ready 

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)

#1 Harvest Prep (21-3) vs. #2 Worthington Christian (20-4)

 

Ohio Dominican University - 8:30 p.m.

 

  • #1 Harvest Prep (21-3)
    • Last district title: 2019 (won the state title)
    • Last appearance: 2019
    • Three-year record: 77-6
    • Tournament path: W, 88-40 vs. #22 International - W, 76-38 vs. #21 Utica - W, 65-41 vs. #12 Columbus Academy
  • #2 Worthington Christian (20-4)
    • Last district title: 2017
    • Last appearance: 2017
    • Three-year record: 49-23
    • Tournament path: W, 59-33 vs. #14 Fairbanks - W, 60-35 vs. #8 Northmor

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)
 

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