Harvest Preparatory School boys basketball coach David Dennis was quite optimistic entering the season given that his team had returned three of its top four scorers from a year ago when it was a Division IV district runner-up.
That the Warriors would be 19-0 overall and 12-0 in the MSL-Cardinal Division before playing Millersport on Feb. 13, however, exceeded his expectations.
Harvest Prep, which already has clinched the outright league title, has moved up to Division III this season and was ranked first in both the area coaches poll and state poll last week.
"I never thought that," Dennis said of his team's perfect start. "I thought we'd be good. ... I knew we'd have some tough games. Once we started going, we started thinking (the season) could be special.
"We shared (the league) title last year, so we haven't won it by ourselves in two years. It's pretty special to do that."
Senior forward C.J. Penha and sophomore guard C.J. Anthony both were averaging 20 points through 19 games after averaging 15 and 14, respectively, last season.
"(The great start) was always the goal," Penha said. "That's what we strive for. We've stayed focused on our goal and just growing closer as a team."
Other key players have included junior guard Soul Hines, who was averaging 11 points, as well as senior guard Sean Peterson and junior guards Brandon Beavers, Bryce Beavers and Avonti Duncan.
"(We want to be) staying humble and knowing that we've got a lot more to go," Anthony said. "People step up in their roles, and that's a big part of our winning this year."
The addition of six transfers who became eligible after having to sit out the first 11 games has added depth to an already talented unit.
Isaiah Cumberland, a 6-foot-6 senior forward who transferred from Gahanna, has been averaging 11 points since joining the team at midseason.
The other transfers are senior Daniel Nyarko (Gahanna Christian) and juniors Elijah Glenn (Pickerington Central), Raymond Robertson (Reynoldsburg), Ralph Robinson (Pickerington Central) and Andrew Tate (Walnut Ridge).
Glenn and Tate both are 6-5.
"(The transfers are) contributors. Are they Jerome Hunters? No, but are they people that work hard? Yes," Dennis said, referring to Hunter, a Pickerington North senior who has committed to Indiana University.
"They give us some depth. I think we're very deep. I don't like to compare first and second (units), but I think our second team is very good. Our depth is in our favor. We press and we run and we run, so to do that all game, you need players and you need (to be conditioned), which we always are."
Harvest Prep received the No. 1 seed for the 25-team district tournament when the draw was held Feb. 11 and opens Feb. 26 at home against 25th-seeded Columbus International.
Joining the Warriors in last week's state poll were Ready (No. 8), Wellington (No. 9) and Columbus Academy (No. 10). Africentric also received votes.
"There are 14 teams that are .500 or above," said Dennis, whose team concludes league play Friday, Feb. 16, at home against Fisher Catholic before closing the regular season Saturday, Feb. 17, at home against Marion Pleasant.
"Africentric has the 10th-best record (in the district). (Galion) Northmor (had) one loss, Academy (had) two losses and Grandview, Marion Elgin and Marion Pleasant (had) three losses (heading into the drawing).
"It's going to be fun, but the first round is going to be brutal."