The Harvest Prep boys basketball team has more than picked up from where it left off a year ago when it was a Division IV district runner-up.
Having two players as explosive offensively as senior forward C.J. Penha and sophomore guard C.J. Anthony might be the biggest reason for that. Through eight games, Anthony and Penha were averaging 24.6 and 24.4 points, respectively.
"We work really hard, and our hard work is paying off," Penha said.
Penha, who signed in November to play for Taylor University, scored 31 points in a 100-61 win over Bath County (Kentucky) on Dec. 23 in the championship game of the Smoky Mountain Classic in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
The Warriors are 10-0 overall and 5-0 in the MSL-Cardinal Division after defeating Zanesville Rosecrans 90-46 on Jan. 4 and Grove City Christian 83-43 on Jan. 6. They continue league action Friday, Jan. 12, at home against Millersport and Tuesday, Jan. 16, at Fisher Catholic.
Last season, Harvest Prep finished 19-6 overall and shared the league title with Grove City Christian at 9-1.
"I love my team and I love the chemistry and the mix of veterans we have," coach David Dennis said. "The biggest key is that we've got quality guys that can really score."
Harvest Prep showed that it was ready to move up to Division III with a 69-56 victory over Wellington in its opener Dec. 9.
Anthony scored 33 points against the Jaguars, who were Division IV state runners-up last season but also have moved up to Division III.
Harvest Prep will play at Wellington, which is new to the MSL-Cardinal this winter, on Jan. 20 in the second round of league play.
"It was a great feeling, especially in the locker room after the game," Penha said. "For that game, we needed me to rebound. I've tried to use my versatility."
Dennis is in his sixth season as the Warriors' coach. He guided the program to a state semifinal in 2014 and a state runner-up finish in 2015 when his son, David Dennis Jr., was the team's top player.
Dennis Jr., a two-time Division IV Player of the Year, is now playing for Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Coach Dennis knows his team will need all the preparation it can get if it's to get through the Division III district tournament, which gets underway Feb. 26. Division III also has added Africentric, which moved up from Division IV, and Johnstown, which moved down from Division II, to a group that already featured Ready, Columbus Academy, Grandview and Galion Northmor.
In support of Penha and Anthony, junior guards Brandon Beavers and Soul Hines both were averaging 11 points through eight games.
Senior guard Sean Peterson, junior guards Avonti Duncan and Bryce Beavers and junior forward Jameree Doe also are key contributors.
"We've got a great nucleus," coach Dennis said. "It's going to be a battle to get to the regional."