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Sweet 16 Preview: State-Ranked #9 Granville Blue Aces (25-1) vs. State-Ranked #7 Bryan Golden Bears (25-1)

….and then there were 16!!

Listen, I'm going to take one quick second to suggest something to the Ohio High School Athletic Association: make the Round of 64 bracket once all the riffraff gets eliminated (2 or 3 games in). This isn't even about our upcoming matchup with Bryan (or the fact that two years ago we had to play AP #1 vs. AP #3 in the Sweet 16, lost by 3, and watched them go on and win the rest of the tournament by 10 in the Elite 8, 40 in the Final 4, and 20 in the State Championship). The reasoning behind my point is that the 4th ranked team in the state of Ohio, Circleville (25-0 before Saturday), got knocked out in the Round of 32 because they had to play 3rd ranked Sheridan (26-0) in a District Championship. That's a tough pill to swallow for a really good team, and while I understand that geography rules the first couple rounds, we're all driving 90+ minutes anyways to these Regionals….and it's not like Ohio is that big. The fact that there's 8 ranked teams remaining and 8 non-ranked teams remaining makes it pretty obvious what they could've done, but the brackets were pre-determined before the season.

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I mean, we had two options on Selection Sunday….the path we took that led to tonight's #7 vs. #9 matchup, or this path:

Huge good luck to Coach Ireland, the incredible Emily Bratton, and our good friends over at Bloom Carroll…..cause they're gonna fucking need it. Reminder that #1 Purcell Marian is the 2x defending state champs, ranked #15 in the ESPN Top 25 for the entire country, has the reigning Ms. Basketball in Ohio who is a 5-star recruit and is ranked #2 in the country, another Ohio State commit, and 4 more D1 players. Yeah, we didn't like that predetermined path for the Sweet 16…

Alright, I'll get off my soapbox and move on with the actual point of the blog. Here's the highlight video / recap of our District Championship, a 55-49 victory over a fearless North Union team:

Stat Lines:

Harper - 26 points, 12 rebounds, and a hell of a well-timed injury timeout down 3 with a few minutes to go, only to sprint back onto the court and finish the game on a 9-0 run. Game footage of Harper right when North Union thought they had us:

Giphy Images.

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Taylor - 13 points, 5 rebounds, 5 steals

Aliyah - 8 points (2 threes), one huge steal and assist to Taylor's And-One that took the lead late

Elle - 2 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks

Katie - 3 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals

Delaney - 3 points

The Team: 1 District Championship

Granville hadn't won 1 in the last 30 years when these Seniors and I arrived four years ago, and now we're walking away with our 4th straight. Alright, that's enough looking in the past. We've got a really fucking big basketball game tonight against a really fucking good team. 

Golden Bears is kind of a sick nickname, if you ask me. And so is Blue Aces, too. But this is not only a matchup of two of Ohio's best mascots, it also features two of Ohio's best girls basketball teams:

It's a Big Boy Matchup!!! This is what we do it for! We're sitting down here in Central Ohio trying to figure out how to attack a well-coached, defensive minded team with not only Final 4 experience, but they start 5 seniors  (including 6'1, 5'10, 5'9, 5'9, and then a 5'6 girl that I feel is their most valuable on the court). This team is very good! But you know what, we're pretty good, too. And I'm sure their coach is up there in Northwest Ohio game planning how to stop Harper, who just scored 20+ points for a school record 16th time this season, Aliyah, who now has 253 career threes, and our cast of characters that will continue to fight to the whistle blows (and not past it…reference to the big People's Elbow in the last game that resulted in two shots and the ball for the Aces). And I'm positive both teams are practicing multiple looks to deal with a full-court press. I'm excited!!! There's nothing better than high school sports when both communities rally around their team!! (They had 1300 people at their District Championship, and we had 12,000 watch our livestream, lol).

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Keys to The Game:

1. Not 

2. Fucking

3. Talking About It

I'm not giving any bulletin board material to a good team, and I'm sure as hell not giving them our game plan, despite a very strategic attempt by a teacher from the opposing school to request our full season stats and keys to winning the game within an hour of us winning the District.

**In all honesty, just in case some of our new pregame readers don't understand sarcasm (like a few fans at the North Union game), Bryan appears to have an incredible community and incredible support system, just like Granville. They have their own top-tier sports media network that broadcasts all of their games, as well as multiple local newspapers that cover them. In my 8 years of coaching, I've never had so many media requests from the opposing school than I've had in the last in the last 24 hours. Obviously the Barstool thing is the reason, but I've been blown away by the professionalism they've conducted themselves with. And I'm sure there is nothing nefarious about it, but everyone that reaches out from Bryan wants our full-season stats to "help with their articles". No problem, gentlemen! Harper is shooting a mere 20% from the floor, and that drops to 10% when she's at the top of the key. And while you're going to want to run Elle (shooting a red hot 65% from 3) off the line when she catches it, you're going to want to pack it in on Aliyah and not let her get inside. One more thing: you're not going to want to foul us down the stretch because as you can see in our District Championship….we are automatic!

Okay, that's what I have for you guys today. Back to the film room, and then our bus leaves at 3:30. One final thing I'd like to mention is that while these last four incredible seasons have taken us all over the state in tournament play, we are actually heading back tonight to the location where our season ended in Year 1: Mansfield Senior High School.

What a storybook this could be. Four years ago, a bunch of young kids and a young coach with big dreams were heartbroken to leave the Mansfield Regional empty handed. Fast forward to this week, where we have the opportunity to get sweet revenge and achieve everything we ever wanted in the very same gym: to punch our ticket to Ohio's biggest stage….the State Final Four.

Let's get the job done tonight, ladies. Coach Kellon, Coach Maggie, and I believe in you. The community is behind you. And you've earned the right to play in a game like this. GO ACES!!!!!

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Live Stream Link (courtesy of Bryan's Sports Media Network):

And here's a pretty good preview of the game from a local newspaper: