Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
FRANKFORT — With a tough test awaiting them in a Division III district semifinal Saturday afternoon, the Adena Warriors are as laid back as they’ve ever been.
That’s not to say they’re taking their next opponent lightly. That’s just simply the team’s personality.
All year long, the Warriors have relied on what they’ve been taught and what they can control. This week is, of course, a bit different considering the fact that they’ll be playing on the floor of Ohio University’s Convocation Center — the program’s first appearance in Athens since 2016.
But that doesn’t mean anything changes in the way they’re preparing for battle.
“This group has been one of the most laid back teams I have ever been around as a coach,” Adena coach Kyle Bradley said. “We’ve had the opportunity to play in front of some great crowds against some really good teams throughout the season. I think their approach to games is a product of that.”
To continue approaching games this season, the Warriors (17-6) have to get past a talented Ironton program, which boasts of wins over Chesapeake, Coal Grove, Oak Hill and others.
Leading the Tigers (17-6) this year has been a mix of Jordan Grizzle, Reid Carrico, Charlie Large and Ethan Wilson, among others. In Ironton’s 44-25 win over Oak Hill in a Division III sectional final, Large had 18 points while Grizzle added 10.
“Ironton is a well-coached group that plays extremely hard from top to bottom,” Bradley said. “They are led by two really good guards in Wilson and Large that can take over games. And, they’ve got a good shooter in Grizzle and a solid post player in Carico.”
Bradley knows his team has its hands full, which is why they’re laser-focused on the task at hand.
“With the additional distractions that come with advancing in the tournament, it’s important to focus more than ever on the small things that got you to this point,” he said.
While Adena’s defense focuses on the aforementioned names, its offense will rely on the usual suspects. In the Warriors’ nail-biting 57-54 win over Portsmouth in a sectional final, Logan Bennett had 16 points and six rebounds while Preston Sykes added a team-high 18 points.
Both hit three 3-point field goals that night while Zach Fout ended with 15 points and six boards.
While Bradley would certainly like those three to mirror those types of performances this weekend, he’s not worried about who does the scoring. He’s paying attention to making sure his guys do the little things correctly.
Everything else will fall into place.
“We are going to need a solid effort out of [Sykes, Bennett and Fout], but the nice thing about this group is that it’s been a different guy from one game to the next,” Bradley said. “We just have to play sound, solid, fundamental basketball and let the game come to us.”
Of course, under the bright lights, that’s easier said than done. But with Adena’s regular schedule — one that included non-conference dates with McClain, Washington, Logan Elm, East Clinton, Fairfield, Xenia, Portsmouth West and Hillsboro — the Warriors are a battle-tested group.
That hand plays well for them heading into Saturday.
“There is no doubt that our non-conference schedule both challenged us and prepared us for the this time of the year,” Bradley said. “Being able to look back at those games and pull bits and pieces from key moments has given us the opportunity to clean up some of our weaknesses as a team. That’s important when you move into ‘survive and advance’ scenarios.”
Tip-off between Adena and Ironton is scheduled for 3 p.m., Saturday at the Convo. Win or lose, the Warriors are one of just three remaining Ross County teams with seasons still alive.
But this weekend doesn’t just give the Warriors an opportunity to represent their community. It’s also an opportunity for a young group to lay a foundation for the future.
“It is a great opportunity for us, as a program, to be one of three teams in the county still playing,” Bradley said. “That’s not only for our varsity guys, but for our younger guys to continue to develop as players, as well. Having a young program like we do, this is definitely a great opportunity for us, not only this year, but for years to come.”