Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
FRANKFORT — Throughout its tournament run thus far, Adena has entered each game as a favorite. The top-seeded Warriors have ousted Portsmouth, Ironton and Chesapeake en route to winning the program’s first district title in 39 years.
However, Thursday night will be much different.
With a matchup scheduled against Canal Winchester Harvest Prep — the AP’s No. 2 ranked team in the state — in a Division III regional semifinal, Adena (19-6) will enter as a heavy underdog.
But the Warriors have no problem with that. In fact, they’re embracing the role.
“I’ve been telling the guys all week that you don’t get to a Sweet 16 if you’re not good yourself,” Bradley said. “I’m just trying to fuel my guys going into this game and, obviously, nobody is really picking us to win. But the best part about this group is they’re confident no matter who they’re playing.”
Going into a 43-36 win over Ironton in a Division III district semifinal on March 2, even though Adena was a higher seeded team, Bradley says he felt like his guys weren’t favored.
In effect, the Warriors rose to the challenge and held the Tigers to eight first half points and just 16-of-46 shooting overall while winning the battle on the boards by a 26-20 margin.
But those defensive numbers have been present throughout the postseason, a central reason why the Warriors have found success.
“I think you have to embrace [the underdog] role,” Bradley said. “We’ve been there this year. I kind of felt like we were looked at as an underdog going into the Ironton game even. We’ve guarded really well this year, especially in the tournament. If you play defense like we have been and contest every shot, while taking care of the basketball on the other end, you’re going to have an opportunity to win whether you’re the underdog or the favorite.”
To beat Harvest Prep (24-2), the Warriors will certainly have to continue playing tight defense. Harvest Prep is riding a 16-game winning streak while averaging 83 points per game. Its two losses this season have come to Kettering Fairmont and Marquette Catholic (Ind.).
Harvest Prep’s offense is led by junior guard Christopher Anthony, a 1,000 point scorer and the Division III Central District Player of the Year. Anthony averages 25 points per night.
“Harvest Prep is really, really talented and they probably have the Division III Player of the Year, in the state, in the Anthony kid,” Bradley said. “Four of their guys are averaging 10-plus points. So it’ll be a tough contest. They’ve got long, lanky, athletic guards, they’re an extremely unselfish basketball team and they move the ball really well.”
In Harvest Prep’s district title win over Columbus Academy, a 71-67 final, Anthony scored 14 points but made way for Soul Hines to drop 21 points while hitting four 3’s in the final nine minutes.
Harvest Prep’s offense is obviously good, but its defense is what sets the team part.
“Their kid in the middle, for a big guy, is the best passer I’ve seen all year long,” Bradley said. “They do a lot of good things offensively, moving and working off one another. But really what fuels them is their defense. They get after it in the full court.”
It won’t be the first time in which Adena has seen a full-court, pressure defense. Guards Preston Sykes, Nate Throckmorton and Jarrett Garrison, as well as forward Logan Bennett, have handled that pressure well while limiting turnovers.
That’s imperative come Thursday evening.
“The biggest thing is taking care of the basketball in the full court and giving ourselves an opportunity to have quality looks,” Bradley said. “We want to dictate the pace of the game, limit them to one shots and done, and get on the glass when we have those opportunities.”
Adena and Harvest Prep have a scheduled 8 p.m. tip-off, Thursday at the Convocation Center. Bradley’s crew will have to be on point, but they’re certainly not backing down from a challenge.
“You make it to the regionals and there are 16 teams playing,” Bradley said. “You roll the ball out and you see what happens. Any team that comes out of the Central District is going to be a really good basketball team.”