This learning experience had some sting to it.
Madison High School’s boys basketball team got an up-close look at an elite Division III squad Monday night at the Flyin’ to the Hoop showcase and discovered one thing: The Mohawks are further away from being a D-III state contender than they thought.
“It was just a whole nother ballgame compared to what we’re used to,” admitted Mohawks senior guard Mason Whiteman, who had nine points and three assists. “We’re used to controlling the pace of the game and playing how we want to, and we had to adapt to their style of play right away.
“In the first half, we were just shocked by how fast and quick they were. We kind of cooled down and relaxed in the second half, but we were just so down from the first half that it didn’t make a difference. It definitely shows us the competition we’re going to run into if we want to make a run for Columbus.”
Madison coach Jeff Smith tried to accentuate the positives after watching his team outscore the Warriors 36-30 after halftime.
“It’s a learning lesson for us. I just wish it wouldn’t have been so painful for the first 16 minutes,” Smith said. “But the last 16 minutes should give us confidence moving into future endeavors.”
Grant Whisman stepped up in the spotlight and led Madison (13-2) with 20 points and five rebounds, hitting 8-of-12 shots from the floor. Matt Gomia added 11 points.
Christopher Anthony, a 6-foot guard who’s regarded as one of the state’s top juniors, pumped in 32 points for Harvest Prep (11-2).
“That’s our brand of basketball right there — quick, get up the floor, pressure defense all the time. That’s how we get to do what we get to do,” said Anthony, who has college offers from Air Force and Stony Brook. “They knew who we are, but they didn’t know what we were about, and I think we really showed them what we were about today. That was our big plan, to come in and show the world that we can take on anybody.
“You’ll definitely see us back in the Schottenstein Center later on down the season in March. We know what we’re capable of, and we’re not going to stop.”
Harvest Prep absolutely sizzled offensively in the first half. The Warriors scored 24 points in the first period and 25 more in the second stanza, shooting 74.1 percent from the floor while burying 9-of-15 bombs from beyond the arc.
Anthony got to the rim at will and was a 3-point demon as well. He had three treys in the first five-plus minutes and added three more in the third period.
“The main thing is everybody’s happy for you,” Anthony said of his hot hand. “The guys on my team, they don’t care who scores. It could be my night, it could be somebody else’s night, it doesn’t matter. This was my night tonight, and they showed me love.”
“Christopher loves the big stage. He steps up on big stages,” Warriors coach David Dennis Sr. added. “He’s one of the best juniors in the state. There’s a lot more you haven’t seen, so that’s a good thing.”
Brandon Beavers (16) and Soul Hines (10) were also among Harvest Prep’s top scorers. The Warriors shot 61.5 percent from the field overall and tallied 25 points off 16 Madison turnovers.
“We don’t shoot the ball all the time like this in a game, but we do shoot like this in practice,” Dennis said. “So it’s nice to see what we do in practice come through to the game. To hold them to 20 points in the first half and play the way we did, I knew we always had that in us. Tonight, we showed it.
“On a big court like this, it’s hard to chase us because we’ve got ball handlers and guys that can create and make shots. We’re not as big as (Madison), so when they have to come out and play man, that benefits us.”
The Mohawks went man-to-man after beginning the game in a zone. Nothing worked in the first half.
“We were hoping when we started in the zone that we could match up better so we wouldn’t get screened, but we had to get out of the zone pretty fast,” Smith said. “We knew they shot the 3 well. We didn’t know they’d shoot it this well that early.
“They were on us so early, it was just like bang, bang … our kids were kind of shell-shocked. And we missed so many layups. The genie was out of the bottle, and we couldn’t put him back in. It just snowballed from there in the first half.”
Smith said he didn’t need to come down hard on his players at halftime.
“They were embarrassed enough,” he said. “I just said, ‘We’re not going to win. That’s over. Let’s just play well and try to win the third quarter and see if it shrinks the score.’ And it did. We played a lot better in the second half.”
The Mohawks were unable to practice Saturday and Sunday because Madison’s campus was closed. Smith felt that had an effect on his team, which had a short shootaround Monday before heading to Kettering.
“Maybe (Harvest Prep) didn’t practice either, I don’t know,” Smith said. “But we had more things that we had to do differently than they did. They just did what they do. I knew we couldn’t do what we do and be successful. We did such a poor job with the ball and getting into position on offense in the first half, and I made some mistakes as well. It was everybody.”
Levi McMonigle had six points and six boards for the Mohawks, and Tristan Sipple added five assists. Whiteman and Whisman sank a trio of 3-pointers apiece, all in the second half.