Division IV State champs making a run to repeat

Game 9  JAN 16 SUN 1:45 pm Warren Howland Tigers vs. Harvest Prep Warriors

By Dave Mast

This game pits a Division IV State champion with a full house returning from last year against one of the best post players in the state. Harvest Prep returns all five starters from last year’s championship team, and eight of its top nine players. It is no wonder that OGBR’s Tom Jenkins predicted that the Warriors will repeat.

“They’ve got to be the biggest favorite to win their division this season,” said Jenkins of the Warriors, who reeled off 20 in a row to win the Div. IV title with a sparkling 27-1 mark.

Leading the way will be senior point guard Ayrealle Beavers, also known as Shortee. The speedster is bound for Loyola University of Chicago next year, and provides the perfect floor general for the Warriors. Senior Shicole Watts is Harvest Prep’s best player, and even though she has not committed to any college yet, she is committed to dishing out plenty of points against opponents. Teammate and fellow senior Chelsea McKnight brings plenty of athleticism to the party, and is also seeking a Div. I suitor for college. They are joined by the Francis twins, Jaren and Jarel, and together they create some real match-up issues for opponents.

Off the bench, last year’s championship game hero Cheyenne Rose is back, and Harvest Preps depth should be a key to their success.

“They’re just one more year experienced and come back almost fully intact from last year’s win over Hiland in the finals,” said Jenkins.

Traditionally, John Diehl’s Tigers, who beat up plenty of opponents on their way to an 18-4 record last year, have always had plenty of height. But this year, they not only have height, they have one of the premier post players in the league in 6-foot-3-inch Taylor Williams. Williams has been compared to Ohio State superstar Amy Scullion, and not only can she play the post position, she can locate outside because of her superior physical skills. She averaged 17.8 points per game last year.

“Williams is as exciting of a player that will be at the Classic,” said Jenkins. “She’s very tough to guard because she is big and athletic.” She will be joined by junior shooting guard Erika Nites (13.3 ppg last year), and Paige Loychik, a junior transfer from Warren Champion. The three make a triumvirate of scoring potential, but in addition to their talent, Jenkins said the Tigers have one more major advantage in this game.

“This team is as well coached as anybody at the Classic,” said Jenkins. “They are extremely disciplined, and rarely hurt themselves.”

So it is the patient half-court offense of Div. I Warren Howland against the athleticism of a veteran championship team in Harvest Prep.

“This should be a great game because it pits two very different styles against one another,” said Jenkins. “When we make these teams, we look at the match-ups, not what division they are in. This ought to be a good one.”