Despite not getting past the sectional level of the postseason in coach Dan DeCrane's first three seasons, the Ready High School boys basketball team entered this year with the expectation that it could battle for a district championship and beyond.
That's exactly what occurred, as the Silver Knights made it to a district final and got a shot at facing the state's No. 1-ranked team.
On March 9 at Ohio Domin-ican, third-seeded Ready left with a runner-up trophy after losing to top-seeded Harvest Prep 64-48.
"The program is on the rise after going from four wins my first year to 20 this year," DeCrane said. "We did some special things. Right now we've got some competitive kids, but we'll be able to celebrate that in the upcoming weeks."
Ready, which improved from 4-19 in 2014-15 to 6-16 the next season to 14-10 a year ago, trailed Harvest Prep just 28-27 at halftime.
The Knights then were outscored 17-4 in the third quarter and finished 20-5 overall, while the Warriors improved to 26-0.
"One of our emphases was defensive rebounding and the first possession of the game they got three of them and that kind of set the tone a little bit," DeCrane said. "We were down one (at halftime) and felt like we should have been up five or six. The second thing we didn't do was we didn't make shots. In the second half theirs went in and ours didn't. They're a good team. They hit five or six (3-pointers) and we had two. We average about seven 3s a game. That was one of the game plans, to hit open shots.
"When you play a team like that, you can't give them two big runs. They had one in the second half and we couldn't get them back. They held their ground defensively and capitalized on our mistakes."
Ready did earn a championship earlier this winter, sharing the CCL title with Hartley and Watterson at 6-2, ahead of DeSales (1-7) and St. Charles (1-7).
Then in the postseason, Ready beat 20th-seeded Liberty Union 69-61 on Feb. 27 and 18th-seeded Mount Gilead 68-42 on March 3 at home and sixth-seeded Columbus Academy 64-56 on March 6 in a district semifinal at Hamilton Township.
Senior guard Chanc Dawson, who had 16 points in the district final, scored 22 against Academy while reaching 1,000 points for his prep career. The first-team all-district honoree averaged 18.5 points and finished with 1,028 career points.
Senior guard Brady Thomas averaged 16 points and finished with 1,142 for his career. He was second-team all-district and will play for Mount St. Joseph.
"We've put in countless hours in the gym and all the coaches push us and believed in us to get here," Dawson said.
With Dawson and Thomas among a five-member senior class, the Knights will be looking to a four-member junior class and a promising freshman to lead the way next season.
Junior guard Jaishan Norris averaged seven points, junior center Cade Canter averaged five and junior guard Cade Dent averaged four.
Dawson and Thomas were first-team all-league, and Canter was second-team all-league.
Freshman forward Darius Parham, who averaged 7.5 points and was honorable mention all-district, scored 11 points in the district final.
Freshman guard Garrison Budd is another player DeCrane is excited about along with sophomore guard Brock Baker, who missed most of the season with an injury.
Junior guard C.J. White, sophomore guards A.J. Craddock and Jack Foley and freshman forward Elijah English are others eligible to return.
"(Parham) had a great game (against Harvest Prep)," DeCrane said. "He's going to be a really good player for us. He's got some skill work to do, but he's competing with athletes who are four or five years older and he's going to be a special one. We've got Norris and Cade Canter, Cade Dent, Garrison Budd who played a few minutes, and we had a sophomore who broke his leg, Brock Baker, so we've got some younger guys on (the junior varsity). It'll be a different group but our expectations will stay high."
Halko ends wrestling season at state
After going 1-2 in the Division III district tournament a year ago, junior Andrew Halko's wrestling season lasted a week longer this winter.
The district runner-up at 145 on March 2 and 3 at Heath competed in the state tournament for the first time and went 0-2 on March 8 at Ohio State to finish 36-8 overall.
Halko lost to Andrew Hardenbrook of Columbiana Crest-view 9-4 and then was pinned by Rossford's Austin Eick in 2 minutes, 30 seconds. Hardenbrook went on to place sixth.
"He took it really hard," coach Anthony Aiello said. "He knows that he froze up today. He's never been to (a state tournament) even to watch one. One of the things I told him was that this was a huge learning experience and you know what to expect. We'll take it for what it is and learn from it."
Ready, which had no seniors, tied Fairbanks for seventh (73) in a 12-team sectional Feb. 24 at Madison Plains behind champion North Union (186) as Halko and sophomore Bailey Garren (heavyweight) both finished first and freshman Aiden Aiello (113) was second to advance to district.
Ready then was 24th (30.5) at district as 48 teams scored and Nelsonville-York (175) won the title.
Aiden Aiello went 2-2 to finish 23-12, and Garren went 2-2 to finish 20-13.
Junior Sam Hardenbergh (220) was fifth at sectional but ended up replacing another wrestler at district, where he went 2-2 to finish 23-10.
Also competing at sectional were sophomores Cameron Jones (126) and Jacob Robinson (160). Robinson went 1-2 and finished 14-15.
"I'm really excited for next year," coach Aiello said. "We've got an eighth-grader (Paul Martello) coming in who's been wrestling since he was a little kid who has been working out with the high school team."
Girls basketball team peaked at right time
Before falling to top-seeded Africentric 63-23 on March 2 in a Division III district final at Ohio Dominican, the ninth-seeded girls basketball team had lost just one time since a 46-38 setback against Worthington Christian on Jan. 29.
It marked the Knights' third district runner-up finish in four seasons.
"After Feb. 1, we won seven of our (next) eight and they got better," said coach Joe Lang, whose team finished 15-10 overall. "Every year you hope that kids improve. We've got to keep getting better. Playing in the league we do, we get beat up and our record doesn't look that good. This year was probably the most respect we've gotten for a while. I went in thinking we were going to get (seeded 14th or 15th)."
After opening the district tournament with a 59-44 victory over 11th-seeded Grandview on Feb. 20, Ready edged 13th-seeded West Jefferson 47-43 on Feb. 24 and beat eighth-seeded Centerburg 55-45 on Feb. 27 in a district semifinal at Olentangy Orange.
The Knights are now 5-7 in district finals under Lang, who completed his 37th season.
If Ready has another long postseason next winter, it will do so with several new key players.
Senior guard Dani Hall averaged 10.5 points and was second-team all-district.
The other seniors on the eight-player roster were guard Katelyn Wolfe (7 points per game), forwards Nikki Hawkins (4.5 ppg) and Kim Lloyd (3 ppg) and guard Natalee Patel.
Junior forward Derricka Bramwell averaged 12 points and made third-team all-district.
Hall was first-team all-league and Bramwell made the second team.
Sophomore guard Bre Hejduk proved to be one of the Knights' top outside shooting threats and averaged 5.5 points. Junior guard Ariyhana Marshall also was a key contributor.
Ready went 2-5 in the CCL to finish fourth behind Hartley (6-1), Watterson (5-2) and DeSales (3-4) and ahead of Columbus School for Girls (0-4).
@UlreyThisWeekAt a glance
*Record: 20-5 overall, 6-2 (tied for first) in CCL
*Seniors lost: Chanc Dawson, Jordan Gantz, Ben Gebru, Dominic Mattox and Brady Thomas
*Key returnees: Garrison Budd, Cade Canter, Cade Dent, Jaishan Norris and Darius Parham
*Record: 15-10 overall, 2-5 (fourth) in CCL
*Seniors lost: Dani Hall, Nikki Hawkins, Kim Lloyd, Natalee Patel and Katelyn Wolfe
*Key returnees: Derricka Bramwell, Bre Hejduk and Ariyhana Marshall
*Finishes: Fourth in CCL, tied for seventh at sectional, 24th at district, did not score at state
*Seniors lost: None
*Key returnees: Aiden Aiello, Bailey Garren, Andrew Halko, Sam Hardenbergh, Cameron Jones and Jacob Robinson