The Ready High School boys basketball team took steps forward in each of Dan DeCrane's first three seasons as coach, posting its first winning record in his tenure a year ago.
Having the senior duo of Brady Thomas and Chanc Dawson back to lead the way has the Silver Knights believing they could be ready for an even better run this winter.
"The biggest challenge our team is going to face is on the mental side of the game," said DeCrane, whose team went from four wins in 2014-15 to six the next season before improving to 14-10 a year ago. "I think these guys really love being a Silver Knight as well as growing our program. We've enjoyed the journey. We have five seniors, and they've been a big part of what we've been doing."
Thomas is a 5-foot-10 guard who averaged 14.5 points and 4.5 assists last season, and Dawson is a 6-4 guard who averaged 11 points.
The other seniors are Jordan Gantz (5-11, guard), Ben Gebru (6-1, center) and Dominic Mattox (6-4, forward/center).
Juniors Cade Canter (6-3, center) and Cade Dent (5-9, guard) also are key returnees. Canter averaged 5.5 points and 8.5 rebounds and is receiving college football recruiting interest.
Junior Jaishan Norris (5-10, guard) is another athletic player whom DeCrane is excited about.
Also on the team are junior C.J. White (5-9, guard), sophomore Brock Baker (5-10, guard) and freshmen Garrison Budd (5-10, guard) and Darius Parham (6-1, forward).
Parham could be an immediate contributor despite being a newcomer.
The biggest loss to graduation was guard Dominic Volini, who averaged 13 points last season.
Ready opened Dec. 1 by beating Circleville New Hope Christian 76-58 in the Chillicothe Zane Trace Tipoff Classic and also defeated Horizon Science 101-73 on Dec. 2.
"This year one big advantage we have is improved depth," DeCrane said. "Our lower levels have gotten a lot better, so we want to play more guys. The big thing is getting max effort out of our players, but we have guys that can help us have the tempo we want."
After his team was seeded sixth for the Division III district tournament last season, DeCrane knows the Knights could be in for a "meat-grinder" in the postseason with Wellington, Harvest Prep and Africentric all moving up after previously being in Division IV. Wellington was a state semifinalist in 2016 and the state runner-up last season.
Ready, which lost to Galion Northmor 50-44 in two overtimes in a third-round tournament game last season, will be looking for its first winning record in the CCL since 2004-05. The Knights begin the league schedule Friday, Dec. 8, at home against defending champion St. Charles.
"Our speed is going to be a big thing this year," Thomas said. "We want to play fast. The league is more of a sit-down-and-guard, half-court league, so we feel like our tempo will be a big thing this year."
Good health key for girls basketball team
With just 19 players in its program, including eight on varsity, the girls basketball team is focusing on versatility in case a key player gets injured.
The Knights opened Nov. 28 by losing to Jonathan Alder 64-49 but beat Central Crossing 50-28 on Dec. 1.
"Obviously the key for us is that we've got to keep people healthy," coach Joe Lang said. "We've got 19 kids total, so numbers have been tough. We've got a chance to be a good team, but it's going to depend on health. Everybody's trying to learn every spot because they might have to play every spot. Their attitude has been good."
Lang is in his 37th season and earned his 500th career victory when Ready beat Utica 41-35 in the first round of last season's Division III district tournament. The Knights lost to Worthington Christian 48-47 in the second round to finish 11-13 overall.
The top two returnees are senior guards Dani Hall (5-6) and Katelyn Wolfe (5-5), who averaged 9.1 and 5.2 points, respectively, last season.
Junior Derricka Bramwell (5-9, forward) averaged 4.9 points and scored a season-high 13 against Utica.
Sophomore Bre Hedjuk (5-4, guard) was a key player off the bench last season.
Also on the team are seniors Nikki Hawkins (5-9, forward), Kim Lloyd (5-8, guard/forward) and Natalee Patel (5-3, guard) and junior Ariyana Marshall (5-6, guard).
Dani Lancia, who scored 18 points in the tournament loss and averaged 7.5 points, and Maria Menke, who averaged 4.3 points, were forwards lost to graduation. Guard Aly Wiseman, also a 2017 graduate, was another starter last season.
Against Jonathan Alder, Bramwell scored 14 points, Hall had 13 and Wolfe scored 10.
Ready tied DeSales for third (2-5) in the CCL a year ago behind Watterson (7-0) and Hartley (5-2).
"As far as the league goes, (Hartley) obviously has a lot of talented players back and would have to be the league favorite," Lang said. "Watterson's going to be Watterson."
Hall, who has committed to play softball for Eastern Michigan, battled an ankle injury during the preseason but should be the point guard when healthy.
Hawkins, who will play softball for Wittenberg, and Lloyd are back with the program after not playing last season.
"Me, Kate and most of the seniors have been playing together since we were in eighth grade, so I think we're going to have a lot of team chemistry," Hall said.
Dec. 1 -- Circleville New Hope Christian in Chillicothe Zane Trace Tipoff Classic
Dec. 2 -- vs. Horizon Science
*Dec. 8 -- vs. St. Charles
Dec. 12 -- at Central Crossing
*Dec. 15 -- at Hartley
Dec. 16 -- vs. Shekinah Christian
Dec. 23 -- vs. Marion Pleasant
Dec. 29 -- at Canton Central Catholic
Dec. 30 -- Hannibal River in Tuscarawas Central Catholic Holiday Tournament
Jan. 3 -- vs. Franklin Heights
*Jan. 5 -- vs. DeSales
Jan. 9 -- vs. Patriot Prep
*Jan. 12 -- at Watterson
Jan. 13 -- Beverly Fort Frye in Route 40 Classic at Zanesville West Muskingum
*Jan. 19 -- at St. Charles
Jan. 23 -- at Wellington
Jan. 24 -- at Liberty Union
*Jan. 26 -- vs. Hartley
Feb. 6 -- at Centerburg
*Feb. 9 -- at DeSales
*Feb. 16 -- vs. Watterson
Feb. 20 -- vs. Gahanna Christian
Nov. 28 -- at Jonathan Alder
Dec. 1 -- vs. Central Crossing
Dec. 5 -- vs. Fairbanks
Dec. 11 -- at Patriot Prep
Dec. 13 -- vs. London
Dec. 19 -- at Fairfield Christian
Dec. 28 -- at Tuscarawas Central Catholic
Dec. 30 -- vs. Shekinah Christian
*Jan. 4 -- at Hartley
Jan. 6 -- vs. Granville Christian
Jan. 9 -- at Columbus Academy
*Jan. 11 -- vs. DeSales
*Jan. 13 -- at Columbus School for Girls
Jan. 19 -- vs. Horizon Science
*Jan. 20 -- vs. Watterson
*Jan. 25 -- vs. Hartley
Jan. 29 -- at Worthington Christian
*Feb. 1 -- at DeSales
Feb. 3 -- vs. Circleville New Hope Christian
*Feb. 8 -- at Watterson
Feb. 13 -- vs. Bexley
Feb. 16 -- at Newark Catholic
Below are the coming schedules for the Ready bowling and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 12 -- Whitehall at Game of Western Columbus
*Dec. 13 -- Mifflin at Game of Western Columbus
Dec. 9 -- Golden Eagle Classic at Madison Plains