This Malvern team isn’t good. Not even great. They’re generational.

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Malvern senior (from left): Mitch Minor, Dylan Phillips and J'Allen Barrino.
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There are good teams. There are great teams. And then there are generational teams – like the 2024 Malvern Hornets.

This Malvern team is generational – and there’s really no doubt about it. It’s tough to win 27 games in a season for a high school basketball game, but to have zero losses with 27 wins – that’s a different level of success. But can the Hornets take down the 22-4 Harvest Prep Warriors from Canal Winchester on Saturday afternoon?

It’s one thing to finish the regular season unbeaten. You play a lot of the same teams twice, and Malvern’s talent is far above much of the competition in their area and league, but some teams on the Hornets’ schedule gave them their best shot – including the East Canton Hornets.

East Canton was the first team to lead Malvern at halftime this season – and that was 17 games in. But Malvern prevailed and got the job done in overtime, 55-50. Then they ran into Garaway, the team that knocked Malvern out of the tournament last season. But Malvern took care of business there as they went on to finish the regular season 22-0 and nab another IVC North Championship.

Now comes the postseason, where it’s do or die for all teams, including the best of the best. All it takes is one team to get hot for a short period in a game, and that can be the difference.

The Hornets are used to making it a few games into the tournament, winning 18 straight sectional championships. But it’s that darn District Final that has stood between Malvern and the regional tournament. This senior class lost three straight district titles until this year, when they beat Martins Ferry.

Malvern’s been to the regional tournament before, but it’s been seven years since they played in the semifinals and 16 years since playing in the finals.

The last time they were in the regional semis, Malvern was led by Jaret Majestic who went on to have a great career for the Malone Pioneers. It’s been next man up, and the Hornets have found that next man and his name is J’Allen Barrino – a finalist for Ohio’s Mr. Basketball award.

Barrino is a very efficient player for the Hornets. Making 211 of his 289 shots this season through 27 games. Although the Malvern senior has made just four three-pointers all season, he’s made up for it in other categories. 140 rebounds, 169 assists and 130 steals – that’s what you can call hustle. He’s totaled 496 points this year.

Barrino is accompanied by two other seniors who have dreamt of a trip to Athens for regional action, now they get to visit OU twice in a week.

Dylan Phillips and Mitchell Minor have been difference makers on this Malvern team the last couple seasons as well.

Minor’s made 45 three-pointers this season and shot 46% from the field. While pulling down 130 rebounds, 42 assists and stealing the ball 24 times. Minor has recorded291 points.

Phillips makes an impact on every part of the court as well, recording 42 threes, while pulling down 65 rebounds, dishing out 69 assists and swiping the ball away from the other team 45 times. He’s scored 256 points this season.

But it’s not just the seniors making a difference. This group of juniors has played their role in Malvern’s success.

Rodney Smith has shot 53% from the field for the Hornet, and has recorded 66 steals, while scoring 291 points. Drake Hutchison has played his role for the Hornets, scoring 144 points and going 38-of-61 from the free throw line. He also has 68 assists and 35 rebounds.

No one on Malvern’s team has more rebounds than junior Jared Witherow, and it’s not even close. He’s pulled down 205 rebounds for the Hornets. The next closest on the rebound board is Barrino with 140, followed by Minor with 130. Witherow also has scored 165 points this season.

Malvern’s Eric Swain leads Malvern’s three-point percentage, making 36% of his shots from behind the arc.