Kevin Colley, Staff Writer
WHEELERSBURG — Throughout the course of the regular season and postseason, Wheelersburg’s Tanner Holden has only continued to prove why he’s one of the state’s best.
A 22-point, 16-rebound effort in a come-from-behind victory over Sandy Valley in a Division III regional semifinal this past Thursday proves that in spades … as does his Division III first-team all-Southeast District and Division III District Player of the Year honors.
Now, the Pirates turn their attention to Canal Winchester Harvest Prep in a Division III regional final at 3 p.m., Saturday. Holden, who posted 35 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks, and three steals in arguably his best individual game of the 2017-18 season against those same Warriors one year ago, will look to continue to be a guiding hand as Wheelersburg looks to clinch a state semifinal berth at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
We had a chance to pick Holden’s brain just hours before tip-off.
Question: What does it mean to face Harvest Prep again and have the opportunity for a rematch against them?
Holden: It feels amazing. It shows all the hard work we put into this season to be able to have a rematch with them at a stage like this.
Q: How did the girls run to the regional finals inspire you and your team? It’s eerily similar how you both came back [Wheelersburg’s girls were down 11, while the boys trailed by 15 in the regional semifinals] and both pressed effectively to make up the deficit.
TH: It really gave us a first hand look at what it’s like to play in a game like that, where the stakes are high and you’re trailing by that deficit. It shows that anything can happen as long as you stick to the game plan and play hard for the entire game.
Q: What’s the community support been like? That’s something that, I’m sure, inspires you all and has to be something you take pride in.
TH: There’s nothing like Pirate Nation. They come out every game, no matter what, and cheer louder than anybody. But really, I think all the good luck texts and posts from people in the community, to all the players, really gives you that extra edge because you know they have your back and will support you until the end.
Q: Your team’s goal all season long has been to get to Columbus and let the chips fall where they may. How do you go about doing that in today’s regional final matchup?
TH: We’re just going to have to be really disciplined in the game and really stick to what the coaches have laid out for us. Then, we have to go out and execute and bring energy and passion as soon as the ball is tipped. I mean, this game right here is what every player dreams of. You’re 32 minutes away from getting a chance to play in Columbus. So I think that’ll really tap into our players and will really give us that extra push.