Of the four boys basketball teams that made the Division III state tournament, Harvest Preparatory School was the highest ranked in the final state poll.

The Warriors, who were ranked second behind Archbold, also believe they have a firm grasp of what it takes to win their first state championship after having a perfect season end in a state semifinal a year ago.

"Defense wins champion-ships, and that's what it's about," coach David Dennis Sr. said.

Harvest Prep, which improved to 26-2 with a 52-38 win over Wheelersburg in a regional final March 16 at Ohio University, will face fifth-ranked Cincinnati Purcell Marian (24-4) in a state semifinal at noon Thursday, March 21, at Ohio State.

The winner plays Oregon Stritch (24-3) or Cleveland Heights Lutheran East (19-8) in the state final at 10:45 a.m. Saturday, March 23, at Ohio State.

Last season, Harvest Prep lost to Africentric 54-52 in a state semifinal to finish 28-1 and the Nubians lost to Cincinnati Deer Park 67-57 in the championship game.

Purcell Marian held Anna to 13 points in the middle two quarters on its way to a 67-56 victory in a regional final March 16 at Kettering Fairmont. The Cavaliers are making their third state tournament appearance. They won the state title in 1985 and were state runners-up in 2000.

Alex Dotson, a 6-foot-4 senior guard who averages 13.5 points and was named first-team all-Southwest District, and 6-6 senior forward A.J. Garrett, who averages 12 points and was second-team all-district, lead Purcell Marian.

Against Anna, 6-6 senior forward Bryan Warah had 20 points and senior guard Javonta Lyons scored 14.

"We've just got to keep our composure and work even harder honestly," Warriors senior forward Soul Hines said. "We've been there before, so we've just got to keep doing what we do and not get complacent. (Our team) played with each other last year and in open gyms in the summer, so we know how to play with each other."

Stritch and Lutheran East also received votes for the final state poll but weren't in the top 10.

Lutheran East, which was the Division IV state champion in 2017, lost to Deer Park 66-48 in a state semifinal last season.

The Falcons might have the best crop of young talent in the Division III state tournament with sophomores E.J. Farmer, Jay Billingsley and Sirr Hughes and 6-6 junior Nehemiah Benson. Farmer (22.5 points per game) and Benson (17 ppg) were named first-team all-Northeast District and Billingsley (20 ppg) and Hughes (12 ppg) were third-team all-district.

Seniors Jordan Burton (15 ppg) and Little Anderson (13 ppg) and junior Joey Holifield (14 ppg) lead Stritch.

Harvest Prep blew out Frankfort Adena 79-38 in a regional semifinal March 14 at Ohio University before getting by Wheelersburg to advance to state for the sixth time. The Warriors were state runners-up in 2007, '11 and '15.

Christopher Anthony had 22 points and Raymond Robertson scored 16 against Adena.

Against Wheelersburg, Harvest Prep led 21-12 after the first quarter before being outscored 6-0 in the second quarter. The Warriors outscored the Pirates 19-9 in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

Anthony had 16 points and Elijah Glenn scored 14.

"We weren't stalling. We just wanted to bring them out a little bit in the second quarter," Dennis Sr. said. "(Wheelersburg) can score. They can play. You never know how playoff games are. They come and go about scoring, but defense, you can always do that and we did it (against Wheelersburg)."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek