Jonathan Alder boys basketball coach Brent Cahill got just about everything he expected to get from the Division II Central District tournament draw held on Sunday, Feb. 9, at Gahanna Lincoln High School.
The Pioneers (10-6) coach was expecting his team to be seeded somewhere between 12-17, Alder was selected 15th (out of 27). He was also hoping for a first-round home game, which he ultimately got. What he may not have been expecting was to get a rematch in that tournament opener as No. 21 London jumped on the line opposite the Pioneers, creating an interesting first-round game between neighboring programs.
“We just wanted to get a home game and we’ve got one,” Cahill said. “It’s against a good London team who obviously we know pretty well. They went for what they thought was the best place for them in a game against us. It should be another good one.”
The two schools played a sprited game on Jan. 22 with the Pioneers coming out on top 54-43. The two teams will meet exactly one month after that first meeting when they tip-off at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 22, at Alder.
London coach Darren Long thought his team might be seeded a little higher, but getting a first-round date with a familiar opponent and not having to leave the county sets the Red Raiders (9-8) up about as well as it possibly could for a team seeded 21st.
“You go onto the board into a spot you feel you’ll be most successful,” Long said. “We could’ve gone to a number of other spots, but we hadn’t played any of those other schools. When it came down to it we chose to play Alder. We know them, but it does work the other way too. They know us.”
Cahill has seen the Red Raiders play a number of times this year and knows that coming away with a victory will be tough, especially with a roster loaded with youngsters, including key freshmen who have yet to play in the postseason.
“They’ve got a lot of seniors and it’s going to be very challenging,” the Alder coach said of London.
Long said his players have no problem looking at the game as a way of righting what went wrong in the regular-season matchup.
“For us we look at it like we let one get away the first time we played,” the London coach said. “We should have played better and we know what we did wrong.”
The winner of the Alder-London tilt will advance to the second round to likely play at No. 2 seed Brookhaven on Feb. 27. The Bearcats will play No. 26 Independence the night before the Pioneers and Red Raiders hook up.
There are 20 teams in the D-III Central District tournament and Madison County neighbors West Jefferson and Madison-Plains are the two lowest-seeded squads.
The 19th-seeded Roughriders (1-16) have a first-round bye and will play at either No. 4 North Union or No. 18 Horizon Science Academy on Feb. 27.
The 20th-seeded Golden Eagles (2-14) will have the unenviable task of playing at No. 1 seed Bishop Hartley on Feb. 26. An upset victory would give Plains a second-round date at No. 9 Liberty Union, No. 10 Fredericktown or No. 11 Northridge.
Plains coach Nathan Warner said his players will continue to work hard and look forward to the challenges of playing the district’s top seed.
“Obviously we would have liked to had a higher seed, but with a young team there is always some fun that comes with being the underdog and trying to play spoiler,” he said.
Warner knows that the high-flying Hawks are talented and disciplined and his team will need to play extremely well if its to have a chance of winning.
“I went and watched them the other night,” Warner said. “They are a very well structured team that plays great defense and work together as one unit on the offensive side of the ball. You can see how well they are coached by the fundamentals they display on both sides of the ball.
“My hope is each day we will continue to get better leading up to the tournament game. We have great leaders on the team that will keep their peers focused and ready to battle each night.”
Shekinah Christian was named the No. 7 seed (out of 21) and will open their postseason at home against No. 12 Granville Christian on Feb. 26. A first-round victory will mean a date with one of No. 4 Africentric, No. 17 Northside Christian or No. 21 Patriot Prep.
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 18 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.