Warren High has enjoyed great success against Tiger cage teams this winter, sweeping the one at Marietta High three times.
The Blane Maddox-coached Warriors (19-3) are hoping that trend continues against the Tiger squad from Waverly High (11-11) when the two Ohio Division II schools hook up in a district semifinal boys basketball game at the Ohio University Convocation Center at 8 p.m. Friday.
"Waverly's record is deceiving," Maddox said. "It doesn't say how really good they are.
"We've scouted them four times, and they're a lot stronger than that."
Warren is coming off a dramatic 53-48 overtime sectional overtime triumph against Marietta at Logan's Jim Myer's Gymnasium last Saturday night. The evening before, Waverly upset No. 3-seeded Hillsboro, 55-47, in a sectional tilt at Southeastern High.
Waverly entered postseason tournament play with an overall losing record, but proved it belonged when it ambushed No. 2-seeded Miami Trace, 59-34. Now, the underdog WHS Tigers are at the .500 mark after last Friday night, and hope to add another notch to their belt with a victory over the Warriors from Vincent.
Waverly is paced by 6-foot-6 shooting guard Jake Kretzer, who scored a game-high 27 points, 20 in the second half, against Hillsboro. With his height, he could create a matchup problem on the perimeter and inside for Warren's defenders. The Warriors have no player taller than 6-3 on their varsity roster.
But Warren has faced bigger opponents all season long, and still found a way to overcome it with tough, hard-nosed, in-your-face defense.
When Waverly beat Hillsboro, it did so with only four scorers. Six-foot-four pivot player Harrison Martin added 11 points, Taylor Ward had 10, and Jean Paul White netted seven, including five of six from the foul line.
The Tigers do not appear to have much depth, and that could come back and hurt them in the fourth quarter.
If Waverly defeats Warren, Kretzer is going to need help from his Tiger teammates - and lots of it. He won't be able to beat the Warriors by himself.
In the meantime, while Waverly has Kretzer, Warren has a good inside-outside game in 6-1 Austin Cunningham and 6-3 Grant Venham. The Warrior duo scored 19 points apiece in the OT win against Marietta.
Cunningham is averaging 19.1 points, 4.8 assists and 3.4 steals per game.
Venham is averaging 11.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per contest.
Thing is, Warren is not a two-player team. Far from it. The other Warrior starters' Dylan Leffingwell, Jeremy Hastie and Justin Hilverding are all very capable of scoring in double digits.
Warren also has a solid bench in Austin Henthorn, Josh Windland, Tyler Ward, and Jace Knost.
Warren, being the top seed, will be favored to advance, but it has to take care of business as usual and won't be able to take Waverly, despite its record, lightly at all. As far as the Warriors are concerned, the WHS Tigers are undefeated - and they are in postseason play.
"They only play five or six guys," Maddox said. "So we're hoping to get into their bench and wear them out.
"We match up well with them, and it should be a close, exciting game."
The Warren/Waverly winner will move on to the 7 p.m. March 11 district final at the Convo, and play either top-seeded Chillicothe or No. 3-seeded Circleville Logan Elm.
Warren is of course very familiar with Chilli, a fellow Southeastern Ohio Athletic League (SEOAL) school.