The Worthington Kilbourne High School boys basketball team routed Thomas Worthington 64-22 on Feb. 2 in front of a near-capacity crowd at home to earn a season split.
The Wolves avenged a 53-42 season-opening loss at Thomas on Dec. 1 and snapped a five-game losing streak to the Cardinals, who own a 10-3 lead in the all-time series.
More importantly, at least from Kilbourne coach Tom Souder's perspective, is his team proved it is capable of winning a big game when it plays to its potential.
"Without question, this was our most complete game of the season, and it was right up there with the best we've played in the 13 years that I've coached here," Souder said. "We competed hard and took care of all the little details. We needed this to know what we're capable of doing. I told our guys that this is why I get after them the way I do all season, because I know that we can play this way and get results like this when everyone works hard from the very beginning to the end."
The Wolves took a 17-0 lead, held a 34-10 halftime advantage and never let the Cardinals cut their deficit below 24 points in the second half.
Point guard Seth Hill scored 17 points and helped hold Thomas point guard Will Hill to four points.
Wing player Tyler Stern-Tucker scored 12 points, wing player Ryan Adolph scored nine and wing player Jared Kortsen and post player J.C. Bartok each scored eight.
Kortsen also played strong defense against Thomas guard Lance Leslie, who scored a team-high six points.
"I predicted that the tougher team was going to win this game, and our guys were the first to the floor on every loose ball," Souder said. "Seth Hill controlled the tempo and was on top of Will Hill every time he turned around. Jared was all over Leslie early on, and (post player) Grant Hartman was all over the floor, rebounding and defending. This was a great day for Wolves basketball."
Kilbourne also won an OCC-Cardinal Division game at Hilliard Bradley 43-40 on Feb. 1 to snap a two-game losing streak, as Seth Hill scored 16 points.
Souder said the Wolves earned a needed confidence boost before playing Westerville North on Friday, Feb. 8, at home in an OCC-Cardinal rematch.
The Warriors defeated Kilbourne 76-46 on Jan. 7, as guard Adrian Cook scored 22 points, point guard Jack Gibbs scored 14, guard Jaylen Benton scored 13 and center R.J. Hutcherson scored 12. Seth Hill and Stern-Tucker each scored 14 points for the Wolves.
North beat Columbus East 82-56 on Feb. 2 to improve to 16-1 overall. The Warriors were 10-0 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Bradley on Feb. 5.
"Gibbs is one of the best, if not the best, basketball players in our area, and Westerville North has eight guys they can interchange around their big kids," Souder said. "Westerville North is one of the best teams in central Ohio, but our guys have seen what they can do when they work hard, because we just beat a very good Thomas Worthington basketball team. We'll need to practice, play and defend with this same kind of effort when we see Westerville North on Friday."
Cardinals looking to bounce back
Thomas' loss at Kilbourne marked its third setback in four games after the Cardinals had won nine of their previous 10 contests.
"We got significantly outplayed in every area possible," coach Bob Miller said. "Kilbourne did a great job of moving the ball and playing together. We tried to press them and they handled that effectively. When we fell behind, we didn't respond or defend well."
On Jan. 29, Thomas lost an OCC-Central home game to Dublin Coffman 46-44, as the Shamrocks won on Jason Hall's putback at the buzzer.
Will Hill scored 18 points and guard Mario Hanna scored nine, including a 3-pointer that tied the game at 44 with 20 seconds left.
On Feb. 1, the Cardinals beat Marysville 52-49 in a home league game, as post player Jesse Greene scored 15 points, center Yemi Sholesi scored 13 and Hill scored 11.
"We played well against a good Dublin Coffman team and lost at the buzzer," Miller said. "We've won a lot of close games this year, and I wasn't surprised to see us bounce back to win our next game. We need to snap back from this (Kilbourne) loss and play much better."
The Cardinals play host to Hilliard Davidson in a league game Friday, Feb. 8.
Thomas beat Davidson 45-39 on Jan. 8, as Leslie scored 13 points and Hill scored 11. Post player Michael Simon scored 12 and wing player Josh Stimmel had nine for Davidson.
The Wildcats were 4-13 overall and 2-9 in the OCC-Central before playing Olentangy Liberty on Feb. 5.
"If we continue playing the way we did (against Kilbourne) anyone will be competitive with us," Miller said. "It doesn't matter how you played earlier in the season or even in your last game. What's important is that we play well for the rest of the season."