Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
FRANKFORT — Believe it or not, we’re more than a week into March and Adena’s boys basketball team is still alive and well.
After handing Ironton a 43-36 loss in a Division III district semifinal last weekend, the Warriors (18-6) now look towards a district championship game where they’ll meet with Chesapeake.
If Adena can knock out the Panthers, it would signify the program’s first district title since 1980.
39 years is a long time to wait, but coach Kyle Bradley has his troops ready for battle. He also knows as the tournament continues to increase in level, opponents increase in talent.
Chesapeake, who last beat West Union by a 53-50 final to advance, is no exception to that fact.
“As a team, when you’re playing a young team, you get better as the season goes on and play your best basketball at the end of the season,” Bradley said. “That’s what [Chesapeake] is doing. They’re 3-0 in the tournament and the stuff they’re going to do that’s going to give us fits is flying around on defense, rotating, putting pressure on the ball and getting into the passing lanes. So we’ve got to make sure we really take care of the basketball.”
The No. 7 seeded Panthers have ousted Belpre (67-26), No. 2 seeded Eastern (58-49) and West Union during their three-game postseason run. Those victories have came on the back of the team’s top two scorers, Eli Archer and Levi Blankenship.
Archer scored 17 in the win over West Union while Blankenship had 10. With nothing to lose and players like Archer and Blankenship to lean on, the Panthers (15-10) are a dangerous pack.
And they’ll certainly be giving the top-seeded Warriors their best shot … which Bradley says his guys have been preparing for all year long without even knowing it.
“Last year, we were 6-16 and some teams overlooked us a little bit,” Bradley said. “It flip-flopped for us this year and we were sitting at 7-1 to start. The guys starting feeling like they were taking everybody’s best shot. Every game, the stands are packed and when you’re walking out to that environment, your realize the magnitude of the game. Now, you’re in a district championship game. So being in those situations earlier in the season, I’m hoping guys can fall back into those moments and use them as a learning lesson.”
When Adena took its trip to Athens last Saturday, it was many of the current roster members’ first time playing at Ohio University’s Convocation Center.
Thanks to that experience, this weekend’s trip will be a bit different.
“We hope we got the pre-game jitters out but it’s a championship game and anytime you play in one of those, you have to add that to the equation,” Bradley said. “But we’re just trying to make it more of a routine thing. Last weekend was the first time we’ve [played at the Convo], me as a basketball coach and these guys as a group. So everything was new. Then, being in a big gym like that … so many different things. The second game there, you hope it kind of just gets back to basketball.”
Adena’s trio of Preston Sykes, Logan Bennett and Zach Fout can help with that. Sykes and Fout combined for 31 of the team’s 43 points in the Ironton win. In the meantime, Bennett made a difference on the opposite side of the ball with four steals and five defensive rebounds.
“Preston Sykes, Logan Bennett and Zach Fout have been really consistent throughout the tournament,” Bradley said. “Logan, while he hasn’t scored that much for us, through the first two games, he’s been good on the glass and he’s been a factor defensively. His length is such a factor. It’d be nice for him to get it going offensively and see the ball go in.”
Then there’s Caleb Foglesong, who continues to do the Warriors’ dirty work under the bucket. His gritty style of play, along with random scoring bouts, gives Adena an extra-needed gear.
“I think one of the areas that we can take an advantage in is getting on the offensive glass,” Bradley said. “That’s been one of our strong points all year long. So if we can continue to do that, that’ll be good.”
BY THE NUMBERS
|6-9||All-Time Record in District Tournament||36-16|
|44-50||All-Time Record in Sectional/District Tournament||118-70|
|3 (1980, 1976, 1975)||District Titles||15|
|Two||District Runner-Up Finishes||Seven|
Oh, and there’s more.
Injured point guard Jarrett Garrison has been cleared for action. While he may not be immediately thrown into the fire, Bradley does expect him to contribute … alongside guys like Nate Throckmorton and Jacob Shipley, who have been silently valuable all winter long.
“We’ll see what happens with [Jarrett]. He was cleared to play so it’d be nice to get some contribution there as we mix him back in,” Bradley said. “But I think a couple of unknown guys who don’t get much appreciation outside our team are Nate Throckmorton and Jacob Shipley. They both guard the basketball really well and make the game easier for the other guys. That kind of goes unnoticed.”
The Warriors and Panthers are scheduled to tip-off at 6 p.m., Saturday in Athens, as a 39-year drought could reach its end.
“Obviously, we’re hoping things go our way Saturday,” Bradley said. “But we’re not looking past Chesapeake. They’re a good team that’s playing really well right now. One game at a time.”