With three expected key players still with the football team, the Ready High School boys basketball team opened its season in the L-Town Tipoff Classic held Nov. 29 and 30 at London.
Because it involved four teams, fifth-year coach Don Worstell decided not to withdraw his team from the London event despite having low numbers at practice throughout November.
The Knights, who defeated Beechcroft 63-49 on Nov. 29 before beating London 68-48 in the championship game Nov. 30, plan to not let the situation get in the way of achieving their primary goals: Move up in the CCL standings and make a run in the Division III tournament.
Last season, Ready finished 14-11 overall, went 1-7 in the CCL to tie DeSales for fourth behind champion Watterson (8-0) and reached a district final as the eighth seed before losing to sixth-seeded Worthington Christian 46-38.
"We really like our group," Worstell said. "It's really a neat group of kids and they're hard-working kids who defend pretty consistently."
Expected to be key players after football season concludes are senior returnees Matt Yoho (6-foot-4, post player) and Kelly Culbertson (5-9, guard) and senior newcomer Myles Fowler (6-1, guard), a transfer from Westland.
The roster includes five other seniors in Josh Gantz (6-6, post player), Jimmy Hanley (6-2, guard), Alec Holt (5-9, guard), Shane Lee (6-0, guard) and Antonio Pulsinelli (6-4, guard/forward).
Also looking to contribute is junior Codi Platter (5-10, guard).
Gantz averaged eight points last season but had 17 points and seven rebounds in the district final. Yoho averaged five points last season and Hanley and Lee both averaged three.
Against London, Gantz had a team-high 21 points and Lee scored 16. Lee led the Knights with 18 points against Beechcroft.
Ready lost its top two scorers from last season to graduation in guards Doug Strickler and Kyle Wilgus, who averaged 11 and nine points, respectively.
"We felt like we played really well outside of our league and we got to the district final, so we definitely did some very good things," Worstell said.
Football team falls short in state semi
Held below 26 points for just the second time this season, the football team lost to Kirtland 10-7 in a Division VI state semifinal Nov. 29 at Arlin Field in Mansfield to finish 12-2.
Kirtland, which was ranked first in the final state poll, improved to 14-0 and advanced to face 10th-ranked Haviland Wayne Trace in the state final Friday, Dec. 6.
The Knights were fifth in the final state poll.
"We knew it was two very good teams," senior two-way lineman Brady Taylor said of the semifinal matchup with Kirtland. "We had some kids that stepped up and made some plays, but it just didn't work out."
Ready tied the game at 7 on an 84-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Matt Yoho with 56 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Knights missed a scoring opportunity earlier in the quarter, as they reached the Kirtland 25-yard line before turning the ball over on downs.
Ready's defense was burned three times on plays in which Kirtland running back Sam Kukura took the handoff and completed a pass to tight end Matthew Finkler, including one that went for 47 yards to set up the Hornets' first score.
"(Kirtland) had a couple gadget plays," coach Joel Cutler said. "They're very efficient and they put stress on our kids in the secondary."
Girls team returns experienced lineup
Girls basketball coach Joe Lang believes his team will have enough depth to make a postseason run later this season after reaching a Division III district semifinal a year ago as the eighth seed before falling to fourth-seeded Fredericktown 46-37 to finish 14-11 overall.
Ready, which opened Nov. 23 with a 61-43 win over Worthington Kilbourne and beat Delaware Christian 51-25 on Nov. 30, returns several experienced players, including 5-9 junior forward Lauren Ruth and 5-6 sophomore guard Delaney Cutteridge.
Ruth was the leading scorer last season among the return-ees, averaging 9.2 points, and Cutteridge averaged 4.3 points.
Against Delaware Christian, Ruth had a team-high 16 points and Cutteridge scored 15.
"I've got nine kids on the team, and seven of them are seniors," said Lang, who entered his 33rd season with a career record of 436-284. "Our feeling is that this is kind of the year we've been gearing for for the last three years. We've got a lot of experience and a lot of athletes."
The seniors are Margie Berkemeyer (6-0, post player), Holland Jones (5-7, guard), Bobbie Menke (6-0, post player/wing player), Elisabeth Palazzo (5-8, post player/wing player), Haley Patel (5-6, guard), Caroline Riewe (5-6, guard) and Allie Schroeder (5-7, guard).
Berkemeyer missed time each of the past two seasons with illness but averaged 7.6 points in 20 games a year ago. Riewe, who is the team's point guard, averaged 4.3 points last season and Palazzo averaged 2.6.
Jones missed all of last season with a hip injury.
Sophomores Ellie McAndrew (5-6, guard), Rachel Neff (5-10, post player) and Leah Ruth (5-7, guard) are others looking to contribute.
Ready, which placed fourth in the CCL last season at 2-6, plays nine Division I teams and has 16 road games.