CINCINNATI — Purcell Marian boys’ basketball coach Scott Kerr always embraces tough opponents on the court during the season. Although anything can happen in the state Final Four this week, the Cavaliers know they’ve been primed for this stage.
“Our schedule was pretty challenging,” Kerr said. “The kids really responded throughout the season.”
Purcell Marian (24-4), ranked No. 5 in the season’s final Associated Press state poll, plays No. 2 Canal Winchester Harvest Prep (26-2) in a Division III state semifinal at noon Thursday at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
The winner plays either Cleveland Heights Lutheran East (19-8) or Oregon Cardinal Stritch (24-3) in the state final at 10:45 a.m. Saturday.
“Everybody loves to go play for a championship,” Kerr said. “While we’re excited to be in the final four, we are really looking forward to compete and chase down that state title.”
The Cavaliers, who average 62 points and allow 43.3 points, area led by five seniors in their starting lineup including forwards AJ Garrett (12.2 points per game) and Javonte Lyons (11.8 ppg.) along with guards Alex Dotson (13.3 ppg.) and Michael Little (6.1 ppg.) and center Bryan Warah (10.6 ppg.).
“This group of seniors is really special to me personally because it’s the first group that I’ve kind of had to coach all the way through that we knew were going to enroll at Purcell,” said Kerr, who became the Cavaliers' coach five years ago.
Harvest Prep coach David Dennis said Purcell is very talented, and Thursday will be a challenge.
“Coach Kerr does an amazing job with them,” Dennis said. “They’re long, athletic and definitely the biggest team we’ve ever played. They get after it and they pride themselves on defense.”
Harvest Prep is making it second straight state semifinal appearance. The Warriors average 82.8 points and allow an average of 51.9 points.
Harvest Prep has a knack for having five players capable of shooting the 3-pointers. That's part of their DNA this season.
Harvest Prep is led by junior guard CJ Anthony, who averages 25.1 points. Senior forward Elijah Glenn and senior guard Brandon Beavers average 10 points.
“They’re a really high-powered offense,” Kerr said. “They are going to down the court to score the basketball.”
Purcell Marian was the 2000 Division II state runner-up and Class AAA state champion in 1985. The Cavaliers are expected to leave for Columbus Wednesday night.
The school was on spring break but Purcell Marian is expecting plenty of fan support this week leading up to Thursday since everyone is back at school.
“I am interested to see how the guys handle the excitement at school this week,” Kerr said. “Hopefully we can stay focused and get back to work.”