Worthington Kilbourne High School boys basketball coach Tom Souder challenged his players to play better defense after some costly defensive breakdowns contributed to his team losing two of its last three regular-season contests.

Worthington Kilbourne High School boys basketball coach Tom Souder challenged his players to play better defense after some costly defensive breakdowns contributed to his team losing two of its last three regular-season contests.

The Wolves responded by holding Hilliard Darby to seven points in each of the first two quarters en route to a 59-43 win in their Division I district tournament opener Feb. 24 at Reynoldsburg.

Kilbourne was 12-9 before playing second-seeded Walnut Ridge in the second round on Feb. 29. The winner will play seventh-seeded Upper Arlington or 12th-seeded Mount Vernon in a district semifinal at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 7, at Reynoldsburg.

"Our first-half defensive effort was very good, and we scored some points off our defense both early and late in the game," Souder said. "They had no dribble penetration in the first half because our guys were doing such a great job defensively."

The Wolves jumped out to a 22-7 lead after the first quarter and extended their lead to 34-14 by halftime. Darby, which finished 6-15, chipped away and opened the fourth quarter on a 10-4 run to pull within 48-40 with 5 minutes, 19 seconds left.

However, Kilbourne closed the game on an 11-3 run.

"We played as a team from the beginning and had a lot better teamwork than we had in our last game (a 53-47 loss to Thomas in the regular-season finale on Feb. 17)," junior wing player Tyler Stern-Tucker said.

Stern-Tucker led the Wolves with 15 points, followed by Brian Hanks with 14 and Seth Hill with 13.

"We came out and did everything we needed to do in the first half, and we did a good job of knocking down our free throws and shots at the end," Hanks said. "This is the first time we've won in the playoffs in the four years I've been here, so it's a huge win for us and a nice confidence boost going into our next game."

With a win over Walnut Ridge, the Wolves could earn a third opportunity to beat UA. Kilbourne lost to the Golden Bears 55-53 on Dec. 9 and 52-31 on Jan. 24 in OCC-Central Division play.

UA beat Briggs 55-42 in the first round Feb. 23 and was 16-5 before playing Mount Vernon on Feb. 29. Mount Vernon had a first-round bye and was 14-6 before playing UA.

Kilbourne did not play Mount Vernon during the regular season.

"We have the second-most wins we've ever had in a single season, and the kids' goal is to get more than the most (13) wins we've ever had," Souder said. "To keep winning, we need to make sure we give up zero easy baskets. We need to handle our opponents' defensive pressure, box out and make our shots."

•Thomas lost to Hilliard Davidson 54-47 in the first round of the district tournament Feb. 25 at Marysville.

Despite losing starting guard Lance Leslie in the first quarter to a dislocated left pinkie, the Cardinals held a 21-19 lead at halftime.

Another starter, forward Julian Henderson, dislocated his right shoulder early in the game but played after having it put back into place.

Jordan Cowgill had 17 points to lead the Cardinals, who finished 11-10. Henderson had 13 points and Will Hill scored 11.

"Losing Lance for most of the game and having Julian injured certainly didn't help, but Jamie Burpee and Mario Hanna played well at the two position, and we gave ourselves some chances to win the game," coach Bob Miller said. "We played pretty well defensively, but (Cole) Lawson came off the bench for them and killed us (with 13 points) and (Davonte) Peterson made 11 free throws for them when we had to foul to try to get back into the game in the fourth quarter."

Davidson improved to 12-9 and advanced to play 10th-seeded Grove City in the second round Thursday, March 1.