Record-breaking season comes to end for Malvern Hornets

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Submitted Photo Malvern Coach Dennis Tucci talks to his team during a time out at the regional final contest at Ohio University March 16. The Hornets fell to Harvest Prep 64-44 but completed the winningest season in school history.

 By Carol McIntire


The tournament trail ended for the Malvern Hornets Saturday at Ohio University in the regional final, but it was one of the most successful seasons in school history. 

The Hornets, who entered the game as the only undefeated team in the state of Ohio (27-0), battled the Columbus Harvest Prep Warriors through three quarters before the Prep pulled away for a 64-44 win and a spot in Division III Final Four.

The Hornets came out of the tipoff fast, forcing three Prep turnovers in the early going to take a 9-7 lead with just over three minutes left in the quarter. 

Senior J’Allen Barrino, who spent nearly a quarter of the regional semifinal contest on the bench in foul trouble just three days earlier, went right to work. Combined with junior teammate Rodney Smith, the pair forced five Warrior turnovers and, using Barrino’s hot hand, built a 15-10 lead after one quarter. Prep had no answer for Barrino, who accounted for eight of his team’s first nine points. Smith sank a three-pointer at the buzzer.

The Hornets shut down the Prep offense in the first period. The Warriors hit only three of 11 field goals and three of seven foul shots. 

The Hornets, who obviously were concentrating on putting points on the board, connected on six of 17 shots and sank two of five charity tosses.

Prep found its footing in the second period and outscored the Hornets 18-11 to take a 28-26 lead into the locker room. 

The third quarter was a defensive battle. Prep held Malvern to 10 field goal attempts (sank three) while Malvern held Prep to 11 shots. Neither team sank a 3-point shot. Prep held a 38-37 lead heading into the final period.

The Warriors took charge over the final eight minutes, forcing turnovers and turning them into points and outscored Malvern 26-7 over the final eight minutes.

“They (Harvest Prep) wore us down,” Coach Dennis Tucci said. “They played nine guys, and they were all tall and athletic. Their pressure on the ball was relentless. We played well for three quarters, but we had a disastrous 4th quarter.”

Malvern forced 12 Prep turnovers, most of which came in the first half, and Prep forced 17 Malvern turnovers with a majority of those coming in the fourth period. Prep totaled 14 steals and Malvern nine. 

Barrino led all scorers with 18 points. Smith added 14, Dylan Phillips five, Mitch Minor five and Jared Witherow four. 

Brandon Roddy led Prep with 15. Minor and Phillips both pulled down six rebounds as Malvern trailed in total boards 36-32.

In spite of the loss, Coach Dennis Tucci was proud of his team.

“J’Allen had a fantastic game, and he proved he was one of the best players in Ohio. Jared and Mitch really battled in the paint, and they held their own. Dylan proved to be just as athletic as the Prep kids, and Rodney has the looks of a future star,” Tucci said.

He was equally proud of his team, the season, senior players and underclassmen.

 “This team was the only team in Ohio to go undefeated this year during the regular season (22-0). They won a sectional title (18th consecutive), a district title (seventh in school history), and won at Ohio Univerity in a hard-fought regional contest vs McDermott Northwest,” he noted.  

The regional final appearance was the fourth in school history, having lost in 1996, 2000 and 2008. 

“The players’ sincere concern for their teammates and their willingness to be coached were big factors in their success,” he continued. “Our five starters had a lot to do with our success, but Drake Hutchison and Eric Swain were big factors off the bench. Evan Debo and Jordin Detchon also played well off the bench.”

He turned his attention to his senior players who contributed so much to the team.

“ J’Allen leaves Malvern with 1,045 career points. He broke three school records this year: steals in a season (he broke my record); steals in a career (broke Tyler Tucci’s record); and field goal percentage for a season (broke John Champer’s record). Dylan and Mitch were just as valuable to our squad. Mitch ended his career with 824 points and Dylan with 717 points. Those three seniors led the Hornets to a 72-8 record over the last three years. I will certainly miss them. They are great kids from great families!”

The 27 wins in a season is also a school record. (The team went 25-1 in 2008.) 

Regional Semifinal

The Hornets advanced to the championship contest with a 58-52 win over  the McDermott Northwest Mohawks in the Division III regional semifinal contest at Ohio University March 13. 

Barrino got into foul trouble early in the contest and spent the majority of the third quarter on the bench. 

Tucci placed his trust in his other players to step up, which they did.

Smith stepped up, dumped in 20 points and led the Hornets to the win.

Phillips kept the Mohawks at bay from the outside, sinking three of four 3-point shots and finishing the game with 13 points. Barrino, despite his time on the bench, scored 10 points and Mitch Minor contributed nine.

Connor Lintz led Northwest with 30 points. Teammate Tanner Bolin added 15.

The teams were knotted at 21-21 after the first quarter and at 31-31 at halftime.

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