The Worthington Christian High School boys basketball team entered this season having earned eight district titles and eight district runner-up finishes since winning its first district championship in 1994.
There were moments earlier this season, however, when coach Kevin Weakley wasn't sure whether the Warriors could add to those accomplishments.
But on March 7 in the Fairgrounds Coliseum, Worthington Christian did just that, beating Ready 46-38 to win its second consecutive Division III district title.
"I didn't think at Christmas time that we had a chance to be this good, especially after we lost to Mifflin (51-41 on Dec. 27 in the Warrior Classic at Harvest Prep)," said Weakley, who has led the Warriors to a 5-6 record in district finals. "This team made steady progress throughout January and February. The schedule we play always makes a difference when you get to these games, especially when you have an opportunity to travel in the regional. We know the schedule will prepare us for big games."
Worthington Christian was 17-8 before playing Versailles in a regional semifinal March 13 at Kettering Fairmont.
The winner advanced to play Cincinnati Summit Country Day or St. Bernard Roger Bacon in a regional final at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 16, at Fairmont.
The regional champion will play Beachwood, Louisville Aquinas, Oberlin or Leavittsburg LaBrae in a state semifinal at 2 p.m. March 21 at Ohio State. The state final is 10:30 a.m. March 23 at Ohio State.
Roger Bacon beat Cincinnati Madeira 75-50 and Summit Country Day defeated West Liberty-Salem 63-49 in district finals March 7 at the University of Dayton to set up the other regional semifinal.
Summit Country Day was 24-1 entering the regional tournament and is led by senior guard Kevin Johnson, a University of Cincinnati recruit who had 29 points in the district final.
Junior guard Carlas Jackson had 27 points in his team's district final to lead Roger Bacon into the regional with a 23-3 record.
Last season, Worthington Christian lost to Lima Central Catholic 57-40 in a regional semifinal. Roger Bacon beat Columbus Academy 58-52 in a regional semifinal before losing to Summit Country Day 54-44 in a regional final.
Two rounds later, Johnson scored 11 points to help Summit Country Day beat Portsmouth 53-37 in the state final.
The sixth-seeded Warriors upset second-seeded Columbus Academy 51-49 in a district semifinal March 5 to set up a rematch with eighth-seeded Ready, which they lost to 49-34 on Jan. 5.
Against Academy, senior guard A.C. Taylor gave the Warriors the lead on a basket with 25 seconds left and finished with 12 points. Junior guard Sam Condon also had 12 points.
"We've had some great coaching and they prepared us well," Taylor said. "I'm excited. I don't think Ready saw the same team they saw in January. In January we didn't know what everybody's roles were on the team."
Taylor and sophomore forward John Routzahn each scored nine points, Condon had eight points and senior forward Seth Weygandt added six against Ready in a game that featured five lead changes.
Worthington Christian went on an 11-0 run to go up 21-9 with 4 minutes, 16 seconds left in the first half, but Ready answered with an 18-0 run and led 27-21 with 6:21 to go in the third quarter. The Warriors used an 8-0 run that began late in the third to take a 36-31 lead with 4:38 remaining.
Condon scored on a layup with 1:52 to go to give his team a 40-38 lead and Taylor added a basket with 1:10 left for a four-point lead. Taylor and Weygandt made two free throws each during the final minute.
"It's weird for a Ready-Worthington Christian game to have those big momentum swings," Weakley said. "I was just really proud of our kids for buckling down defensively. We did a really good job of possessing the basketball and not turning it over. This is a really good program win for us."