VINCENT - Warren had never posted 20 victories in a season until it staged a second-half rally to defeat the Waverly Tigers, 58-48, in an Ohio Division II district boys basketball semifinal at the Ohio University Convocation Center last Friday night.
Now, the Blane Maddox-coached Warriors (20-3) will be seeking win No. 21 in a scheduled 7 p.m. district final at the Convo against Gary Kellough-led Chillicothe High, a fellow Southeastern Ohio Athletic League school that beat them twice during the regular season, 66-52 and 44-43.
If the Warriors win the third meeting, it'll be their first district crown.
"We feel fortunate to be able to have a third opportunity to get them," Maddox said.
The Cavaliers advanced to the district showdown by defeating Logan Elm.
That Chilli has been a nemesis of Warren this winter would be an understatement.
Also, the Warriors were perhaps very unlucky in the second meeting in Vincent.
Warren nearly claimed a win then in the Feb. 11 game, but were denied when Chillicothe's Jalen Ragland, an NCAA Division I signee with Texas El Paso after prep graduation, hit a game-winning 3 in the closing seconds.
If the Cavs' 6-foot-6 senior star and eventual SEOAL Player of the Year, who shot poorly overall that night (9 of 27), had missed the mark, the outcome probably would've favored the royal blue and white.
"We've been reviewing tape this week," Maddox said, "and we let that one slip away. "Now, hopefully, we can finish the job (in the regional)."
On the subject of "unlucky," that apparently was also the case for Warren in the first meeting between the two SEOAL schools.
When the Warren played at Chillicothe on Jan. 7, Austin Cunningham missed most of the opening half with an injury.
Without the 6-foot-1 standout, the Warriors got behind and were never able to recover.
Cunningham was able to return to the action after the break and lead the royal blue and white with 20 points. But in many respects, it was too little, too late.
Warren is also expected to start 6-3 Grant Venham, 5-10 Jeremy Hastie, 6-2 Dylan Leffingwell, and 5-11 Justin Hilverding.
Look for 6-2 Jace Knost, 5-11 Austin Henthorn, 6-3 Josh Windland and 6-0 Tyler Ward to be the first Warriors off the bench.
"We don't put a lot of emphasis on who starts," Maddox said. "It's more team and getting the win at the end."
Chilli will probably counter with, 6-8 Malik London, 5-9 Tyler Manion, 6-2 Zach Johnson, 6-1 Isaac Beverly, and Ragland. Look for 6-1 Max Corcoran, 6-6 Miloje Djacic and 6-0 Marcus Dunn to be the first Cavs off the bench.
In the first meeting, Johnson scored a career-high 21 points against the Warriors but was limited to 6 in the February contest. Fact is, no Cav scored in double digits, except Ragland, at Vincent.
And, Ragland, who was guarded by Venham, and had to earn every one of his game-high 24 points.
Overall, Chilli has been a relatively slow-starting team this season, so that could work for Warren if it can get out of the gate fast and stake itself to an early advantage.
Another key of course will be the matchups.
While the Cavaliers have a height advantage inside with London and Djacic, the Warriors' Venham, Leffingwell and Windland play big and should be able to hold their own.
Warren may have the better 3-point shooters in Cunningham, Knost, Ward and Hastie - and that could be big, especially if the game is close.
Defensively, the royal blue and white will also need to keep London and Beverly - who has a nice baseline shot - in check.
Chillicothe's Manion is the point and does most of the distributing on offense. He's also a good, aggressive defender.
If the district final comes down to freebies, Warren might have the edge, especially if Cunningham, Hastie or Henthorn is at the foul line.
"It's been a great ride for us this season," Maddox said.