COLUMBUS — Harvest Prep completed the mission it began last year.
Lutheran East’s time could be coming again soon.
The veteran Warriors jumped out to a comfortable first-quarter lead and never trailed en route to a 55-42 win over the Falcons in the Division III state championship game at Ohio State’s Value City Arena.
Harvest Prep (28-2) returned four starters from a team that fell in last year’s state semifinals to eventual Division III runner-up Columbus Africentric. That loss weighed heavily on coach David Dennis and his team.
“Last year left a bitter taste in our mouth,” said junior guard C.J. Anthony, who scored a game-high 21 points. “We had the same team coming back. It was the same guys and they felt that pain last year.”
Lutheran East won a Division IV state title in 2017 and reached the Division III state semifinals last year, falling to eventual state champ Cincinnati Deer Park in the semifinals. The Falcons returned three starters from a year ago, but this year’s 14-man roster included nine freshmen and sophomores.
“You can’t teach experience,” Lutheran East coach Sam Liggins said. “Senior groups wins championships. I remember when we won it 2017 we had nine seniors.
“Young guys don’t win championships. It’s not a common thing. We came one game short.”
The Warriors jumped out to 9-3 lead midway through the first quarter and never looked back. The Warriors opened a 16-8 advantage after the first quarter, pushed the lead to double figures in the second and kept it there for much of the second half.
“Any time you dig yourself a hole in a championship game it’s always hard to win the game,” Liggins said. “You spend so much energy trying to get back in it. It’s really an unfortunate thing.”
Anthony and Soul Hines, another returning starter from a year ago, combined for 22 of Harvest Prep’s 33 first-half points. Both Anthony and Hines knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the opening 16 minutes as the Warriors connected on 5 of 11 triples in the half.
“This started back in open gym in March and we just grinded all the way until now,” Hines said. “We didn’t want to leave how we did last year.”
While the Warriors were dialed in from beyond the arc — Harvest Prep connected on 7 of 17 3-pointers on the day — Lutheran East (20-9) never could find the range. The Falcons were just 2 for 26 from 3-point land.
“We never really let them get in a rhythm,” Harvest Prep coach David Dennis said. “They would get it to nine and we would make a shot. They would get it to eight and we would make a shot.
“To never give them that excitement that they were back in the game, it really helped us.”
Elijah Glenn backed Anthony with 14 points. Hines added 13.
Nehemiah Benson led Lutheran East with 13 points and nine rebounds. E.J. Farmer added eight.
“I know we’re going to be down here next year,” Farmer said. “We’ve got to get ready.”
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