Making it to a Division III district championship game wasn't exactly on the radar for the Ready High School girls basketball team when the season began.
The same still could be said when the Silver Knights lost to Worthington Christian 46-38 on Jan. 29 to drop to 8-8.
Yet, that's where Ready found itself after beating eighth-seeded Centerburg 55-45 on Feb. 27 in a district semifinal at Olentangy Orange.
On March 2, the ninth-seeded Knights played top-seeded Africentric in a district final at Ohio Dominican. Ready entered the game at 15-9 while the Nubians were 23-3.
"I just told them that on Oct. 26, nobody in America said this team would get to the district championship game," coach Joe Lang said.
It was the 12th district final in Lang's 37-year tenure.
The Knights were district runners-up in 1982 and 1983 before capturing their first district title in 1988. Ready won its second district title in 2000, followed with back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007 and another title in 2014.
The Knights were runners-up in 1991 and 2005 and lost one-point district finals to Liberty Union (47-46) in 2015 and Marion Pleasant (52-51 in two overtimes) in 2016.
"I don't think we really expected to get this far," sophomore guard Bre Hejduk said.
The Ready-Africentric winner plays play Minford or Chillicothe Southeastern in a regional semifinal at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 7, at Logan. That winner plays Proctorville Fairland, Seaman North Adams, Sugarcreek Garaway or Berlin Hiland in a regional final at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, March 10, at Logan.
The regional champion plays in a state semifinal March 15 at Ohio State.
Ready, which beat 13th-seeded West Jefferson 47-43 in the second round Feb. 24 at home, got 15 points from Katelyn Wolfe, 10 from Dani Hall, nine from Hejduk and eight apiece from Nikki Hawkins and Derricka Bramwell against Centerburg.
The Knights finished 15-for-19 from the free-throw line. In the fourth quarter, Hall went 6-for-8 and Wolfe was 5-for-6.
"Our defense won it," said Hall, a senior guard. "(Lang) said in the second half that they only had one offensive rebound and in the first half they had seven. Our defense has been good all along, but our offense has really stepped up."
Boys basketball team wins tourney opener
The third-seeded boys basketball team began the Division III district tournament Feb. 27 at home by beating 20th-seeded Liberty Union 69-61.
Ready advanced to a second-round game March 3 at home against 18th-seeded Mount Gilead. The winner plays sixth-seeded Columbus Academy or 12th-seeded Northridge in a district semifinal Tuesday, March 6, at a site to be announced.
If Ready gets to a district final, it will play top-seeded Harvest Prep, eighth-seeded Pleasant, 14th-seeded Newark Catholic or 24th-seeded Madison Plains at 8:30 p.m. Friday, March 9, at Ohio Dominican.
The district champion will play Piketon, Albany Alexander, Wheelersburg or Lynchburg-Clay in a regional semifinal March 14 at Ohio University.
Chanc Dawson scored 29 points against Liberty Union and made nine of 10 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter.
Ready led by double digits for much of the second half before the Lions got as close as 67-61 with 23.3 seconds left.
"Our backcourt usually shoots a lot of free throws," Dawson said. "I think we're a decent team at shooting free throws. It didn't really go the way we wanted it to, but it was a good win. We'll move on from this and get focused."
Three wrestlers advance to district
The three Ready wrestlers who qualified for the Division III district tournament all had obstacles to overcome.
Freshman Aiden Aiello had to bounce back from a seven-point deficit to win his semifinal in the sectional Feb. 24 at Madison Plains, a match in which he hurt his neck badly enough that he elected to default the title contest at 113 pounds.
Sophomore Bailey Garren was a third-place sectional finisher at heavyweight despite weighing closer to 220.
Junior Andrew Halko pinned his first two sectional opponents at 145 but struggled to make ground on Grandview's Kyler Baker before winning 3-1 in the title bout.
"Aiden had to forfeit the championship match, but I think he'll be all right," coach Anthony Aiello said of his son. "He was losing 9-2 and ended up taking (West Jefferson's Aidan Benedict) down a couple times, got some more points and finished him out in the third period. With Andrew Halko, he wrestled a kid (during the final) that he'd beaten (earlier this year), but he didn't wrestle offensively like he normally does and ended up winning (3-1). Bailey only weights 220, so he's giving up some weight."
Ready tied Fairbanks for seventh (73 points) in the 12-team sectional as North Union was first (186).
The district tournament was March 2 and March 3 at Uhrichsville Claymont. The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to the state tournament Thursday, March 8, through Saturday, March 10, at Ohio State.
Halko, who also was a district qualifier a year ago, was hoping for another strong performance this weekend.
"I try to be an offensive wrestler and try to keep moving when I'm on bottom," he said. "I made it to the second day (at district last season) but didn't place. I've tried to be more aggressive and be attacking. I can never stop moving and never give."
Also at sectional, Sam Hardenbergh finished fifth at 220 and Cameron Jones (126) and Jacob Robinson (160) each lost in the third round of consolation.
Bowling season ends at district
The girls bowling team still was optimistic about its chances of finishing in the top three in the Division II district tournament Feb. 22 at HP Lanes despite being in seventh as it prepared for the six Baker games.
After bowling a 183 that was best among the 12-team field in the first Baker, the Knights were unable to close the rest of the gap and ended up seventh (3,001) behind champion Jonathan Alder (3,287) as the top three teams advanced to state.
The Knights earned the last district-qualifying berth when they placed 12th (2,711) in the 23-team sectional Feb. 17 at HP Lanes behind champion Jonathan Alder (3,231).
"Our second game (at district) we shot a 782, and then in the third game we started OK but then kind of got tired," coach Russ Rehner said. "We started really strong in the first Baker game, and then we just couldn't put enough spares together in games two, three and four. We couldn't make enough spares to catch them. If we'd picked up 25 or 30 pins a game, we could have had a chance."
Ready finished 12-3 overall, tied Mifflin and Eastmoor Academy for third (7-3) in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-D Division behind Whitehall (10-0) and Watterson (9-1) and shared the CCL title with the Eagles at 5-1, ahead of Hartley (2-4) and DeSales (0-6).
"I'm proud of them," Rehner said. "For a second-year team with some first-year players, they were co-CCL champions and they're only going to get better."
At district, junior Samantha Blackburn had a 475 to finish 16th and sophomore Megan Hackman had 469 to tie for 18th as the top three individuals on non-qualifying teams advanced to state.
Sophomore Mary Zerrien, who led the CCL with a 163.3 average, had a 439 and junior Javana Joyce had a 426. Sophomore Brooke Smith and freshman Cheyenne Blackburn also competed.
Sophomore Maryann Rucker was another contributor for the Knights.
The boys team finished 4-14 overall, placed 10th (3-9) in the COHSBC-D behind champion Whitehall (12-0) and went 0-8 in the CCL to finish behind co-champions St. Charles and DeSales (6-2) as well as Hartley (4-4) and Watterson (4-4).
The Knights finished 24th (2,724) of 30 teams behind champion Jonathan Alder (3,643) in the sectional Feb. 16 at HP Lanes as the top 12 advanced to district.
Senior Robert Shephard, a first-year competitor, tied for 29th with a 488 to advance individually and then was 44th (433) at district.
"To come in and pick up the sport, he did really well," Rehner said.
The only other senior in the program was Arin Thach-Bun.
Garren finished ninth (166.5) in CCL average.
Other competitors included sophomores Finn Hardenbergh and Preston Thach-Bun and freshman Aaron King and Wesley Hendricks.
@UlreyThisWeekAt a glance
*Record: Boys -- 4-14 overall, 3-9 (10th) in COHSBC-D, 0-8 (fifth) in CCL; Girls -- 12-3 overall, 7-3 (tied for third) in COHSBC-D, 5-1 (tied for first) in CCL
*Seniors lost: Boys -- Robert Shephard and Arin Thach-Bun; Girls -- None
*Key returnees: Boys -- Bailey Garren, Finn Hardenbergh, Wesley Hendricks, Aaron King and Preston Thach-Bun; Girls -- Cheyenne Blackburn, Samantha Blackburn, Megan Hackman, Javana Joyce, Brooke Smith and Mary Zerrien