Their paths started out differently, but Chanc Dawson and Brady Thomas have joined to form a backcourt that few others in central Ohio have rivaled this winter.

The Ready High School boys basketball team has emerged as a Division III district championship contender mostly because of the continued progression of the senior guard tandem.

Despite losing their second-leading scorer from last season, Dominick Volini, to graduation, the Silver Knights were 14-2 overall before playing Centerburg on Feb. 6. They lead the CCL at 5-1 after losing to Watterson 64-53 on Feb. 5.

Ready was fourth in the area coaches poll and sixth in the state poll last week. Harvest Prep (No. 1), Columbus Academy (No. 9) and Wellington (No. 10) also were ranked in the top 10 in the state.

Dawson and Thomas both use the phrase “feed off of each other” to describe what it’s been like to play together this season.

“Since sophomore year we’ve been through the rough patches together and now we’re getting a little taste of success,” Thomas said. “Now it’s doing nothing but boosting our confidence.”

Thomas was a contributor in 2014-15 when Ready lost its district tournament opener and finished just 4-19.

Dawson was a role player as a freshman as well but attended Franklin Heights, which finished just 3-20 that season. He transferred to Ready for his sophomore season, but a lineup featuring mostly young players struggled to a 6-16 finish.

The Knights improved to 14-10 last season but lost in the third round of the district tournament as Thomas averaged 14.5 points and Dawson averaged 11.

Dawson likes the steps taken this winter by his team, which bounced back from a 61-52 loss to Wellington on Jan. 23 by beating Liberty Union 78-58 on Jan. 24 and then edging Hartley 65-59 in overtime Jan. 26.

Dawson scored 30 points and Thomas had 15 against the Hawks.

“Chanc has done a lot of things off the court and gone through some adversity in his life,” coach Dan DeCrane said. “He took some time away from the game. I told him do what you have to do and come back when school starts, and he was very fresh and positive. He’s trying to make himself the best he can be.”

The 6-foot-4 Dawson, who was averaging 17.9 points through 15 games, hopes college basketball is in his future.

His feelings toward the game have changed significantly considering he decided not to pick up a basketball last July or August to clear his head.

“I didn’t touch a ball for two months straight because I was burned out from basketball,” Dawson said. “I played so hard going into the summer of my junior year. I was working hard but the game had been so mental. I’m just playing smart and my coaches have put me in a great position to be the best I can be. I’m not forcing anything, and last year I forced a lot.

“(After not playing for two months) I fell in love with the game. I wanted to see how I felt and I feel like I love the game more than I did in my junior year. I’ve been trying to focus on being the best player possible.”

According to DeCrane, the Knights have battled “mentally” even though the program is experiencing its most success since reaching a state semifinal in 2013-14, which is the year before he took over as coach.

Against Hartley, the 5-10 Thomas scored the 1,000th point of his prep career. He was averaging 16.4 points through 15 games and committed in mid-January to Mount St. Joseph University, a Division III program in Cincinnati.

“I know these guys and they’re going to learn,” DeCrane said. “They’re very motivated to do better. Honestly our guys haven’t (looked) too far ahead. (The Wellington loss was) a good one to learn from. It’s how you bounce back.”

Defense keeping girls team in games

Because his team’s record has hovered around .500 throughout the season, girls basketball coach Joe Lang knows Ready won’t be looked at as a Division III district title contender.

The Knights are hoping their defensive approach can make them dangerous if they run into one of the area’s top seeds in the postseason.

At the district tournament drawing Feb. 4, Ready received the ninth seed and an opening game Feb. 20 at home against 11th-seeded Grandview. Last season, the Knights came up just short in a 48-47 loss to eighth-seeded Worthington Christian in a second-round game to finish 11-13.

After beating DeSales 48-47 on Feb. 1 and Circleville New Hope Christian 77-37 on Feb. 3, the Knights were 10-8 overall and 2-4 in the CCL.

“Our offensive skill level has to vastly improve,” Lang said. “You can’t score in the 30s and win a lot of games. We’ll probably be playing somebody that’s pretty good … (in the district tournament). But minus Africentric, I don’t think there’s anybody else in Division III that will be as good as teams we’ve played like Watterson and DeSales.”

Ready beat Columbus School for Girls 44-21 on Jan. 27 but lost to Worthington Christian 46-38 on Jan. 29. Against the Warriors, the Knights were within two baskets of the lead in the final minute after trailing by double digits.

Sophomore guard Bre Hejduk has been a bright spot of late. She made three 3-pointers and scored a season-high 13 points against the Warriors, and she was averaging 9.2 points over the previous six games heading into the matchup with DeSales.

Senior guards Dani Hall (10.1 points per game) and Katelyn Wolfe (7.1) and junior forward Derricka Bramwell (11.5) were the leading scorers through 16 games.

“You have to make easy shots or it’s hard to get any momentum going,” Lang said.

Swimmers set for postseason

The boys and girls swimming teams open the Division II postseason with a sectional Saturday, Feb. 10, at Columbus Academy.

The winner of each event and 27 at-large qualifiers in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites advance to the district meet Feb. 16 at Ohio University.

On Jan. 27 in the CCL meet at St. Charles, the girls team scored 30 points to finish behind CSG (386), Watterson (325), Hartley (266) and DeSales (111).

The boys scored 14 points to place behind St. Charles (464), Watterson (225), DeSales (179) and Hartley (161).

Elaine Smith was fourth in the 200-yard freestyle (2 minutes, 7.98 seconds) and fourth in the 500 free (5:41.05) and Katie Smith was seventh in the 100 breaststroke (1:19.55) and 12th in the 200 individual medley (2:38.52) in the girls meet. Josh Conturo was sixth in the 100 free (58.04) and eighth in the 200 free (2:13.38) in the boys meet.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Ready boys basketball and girls basketball teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

*Feb. 9 -- At DeSales. The Silver Knights beat the Stallions 74-56 on Jan. 5.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Feb. 8 -- At Watterson. The Silver Knights lost to the Eagles 48-32 on Jan. 20.

Feb. 13 -- Home vs. Bexley

*League contest