As he reflected on his team advancing to the Division III state tournament for the first time since 2010, Ready High School boys basketball coach Don Worstell talked about how he was pleased and proud of what the Silver Knights accomplished.
He also wasn't surprised by how much success his senior-laden squad had this season.
"We've got a group of eight seniors and some underclassmen in some nice support roles, and we just have such good chemistry," Worstell said. "They share the basketball and are a very intelligent group. Coming out of last year we thought it was possible. It takes some luck and you've got to stay injury free and get a few bounces going your way."
The Knights' run ended when they lost to Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph 55-40 in a state semifinal March 21 at Ohio State to finish 21-6.
"You grow up in Ohio and you grow up as Ohio State fans, and to be able to play there is special," Worstell said. "I'm just so proud of our guys. We had such a great experience this year. Basketball's such a special thing because it's shared."
Ready trailed VASJ 27-24 at halftime. The Knights got a 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter by senior Kelly Culbertson to trail 40-35, but in the fourth the Vikings held Ready to five points.
The Knights shot 6-for-31 from the floor in the second half.
Senior Josh Gantz had seven points, six rebounds and three blocks, Culbertson and senior Shane Lee each scored six points and seniors Myles Fowler, Alec Holt and Matt Yoho all scored five.
"They're so big and talented inside, and we did a very nice job on their big kids," Worstell said. "Once they got the spread to about eight or nine points it was tough."
VASJ, which won the Division IV state championship last season, lost the Division III state final 64-62 to Lima Central Catholic on March 22.
The senior class was led by Jimmy Hanley (guard, first-team all-district), Gantz (forward, second-team all-district) and Lee (guard, honorable mention all-district).
Lee averaged a team-best 12.6 points, followed by Hanley (11.1), Gantz (9.6), senior forward Antonio Pulsinelli (6.5), Holt (guard, 4.6) and Yoho (forward, 4.5). Fowler, a guard, sat out the first 11 games because of the OHSAA transfer rule and averaged 3.2 points over the final 16 games.
Culbertson, who was the point guard, rounded out the class.
The postseason roster also included juniors Zach Gramlich (forward) and Codi Platter (guard) and sophomores Corey Hall (forward) and Dominic Lombardi (guard), but none of those players saw action in the state semifinal.
The Knights tied Hartley and St. Charles for second (4-4) in the CCL behind Watterson (8-0) and ahead of DeSales (0-8).
Then in the postseason, Ready beat Columbus Academy 49-45 on Feb. 26, Centerburg 53-38 on March 4 and Hartley 51-41 on March 8 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum to win a district title. The Knights defeated Wheelersburg 47-35 on March 12 in a regional semifinal and Lucasville Valley 38-33 on March 15 in a regional final in games at Ohio University.
Ready's only other state tournament appearances came in 1972 and 1973 when it won Class AA titles, 2002 when it was the Division III state runner-up and 2010 when it lost in a state semifinal in Worstell's first season.
"It means a lot," Culbertson said. "We had a great senior class. Our defense was very good throughout the season. I hope people from Ready realize that through hard work you can accomplish a lot."