A pair of juniors and a sophomore who were asked to take on different and larger roles this season have proven up to the task thus far for the Worthington Christian High School boys basketball team.
The Warriors knew almost from the get-go that one of their freshmen would play a leading role, and he's settled in fine, too.
A year after finishing 9-14, Worthington Christian was 8-4 overall before playing Fairbanks on Jan. 15.
"We're just a lot more talented this year, a lot more solid and a lot faster, which helps," junior forward Nakimba Mullins said. "We can score a little more than last year when we couldn't get points on the board. This year, we're doing a lot better at that."
Mullins, junior guard Derrick Hardin, sophomore guard Tyler Kindberg and freshman point guard D.J. Moore have comprised the nucleus of one of the area's rising Division III teams.
Worthington Christian is 1-3 in the MSL-Ohio Division and will try to avenge a 62-56 loss to Grandview on Friday, Jan. 18, when it visits the Bobcats, who are another of the area's stronger Division III teams.
In last week's Division III area coaches poll, Grandview was fourth and Columbus Academy, which also competes in the MSL-Ohio, was sixth. Another league power, Bexley, was fourth in Division II.
Rounding out the MSL-Ohio is Whitehall, which beat Worthington Christian 57-46 on Jan. 4.
The Warriors' league win came against Academy, 53-49 on Dec. 14 when they rallied from a 22-14 halftime deficit.
"We have good team chemistry and the kids are buying in to what we're asking them to do offensively and defensively," coach Kevin Weakley said. "Now it's just going to take time to process where we can be good for four quarters on a consistent basis. We lost to Grandview and we didn't play well in crunch time. Against Academy, we played really well in crunch time. We're a young team learning how to win."
Moore has been an immediate offensive force. He had a 30-point performance in a 70-41 win over Whetstone on Dec. 22 and was averaging a team-high 17.8 points through 12 games, followed by Hardin (15.2), Mullins (11.9) and Kindberg (8.3).
Mullins, who has grown to about 6-foot-4, is playing an increased role inside this season, while Hardin has been more of a creator after focusing much of last season on being a spot-up shooter.
"Their roles are different than last year because they need to do more," Weakley said. "D.J. certainly helps guys get in position where they can be successful, but those guys have played a lot of basketball. Hardin can really shoot the ball and you have to account for him on the floor. A good team has lots of different pieces, and Derrick helps D.J. because you have to guard Derrick and it creates more space on the floor for D.J. to create off the dribble."
Girls basketball team in league title chase
Despite having a 10-game winning streak to open the season snapped with a 40-37 loss Jan. 5 at Bexley, the girls basketball team remains in control of its MSL-Ohio title destiny.
The Warriors are 12-1 overall heading into their home game Thursday, Jan. 17, against Grove City Christian and are 4-1 in the league entering a home game against Academy on Saturday, Jan. 19.
They complete the MSL-Ohio schedule with games Feb. 2 at Whitehall and Feb. 8 at home against Bexley, which is 4-1 in the league as it prepares to play Jan. 19 at Grandview.
Worthington Christian bounced back from its only loss to beat Berne Union 44-25 on Jan. 9 and Grandview 55-18 on Jan. 11.
Sophomore guard Katherine Weakley had 15 points against Grandview and is averaging 17.6 points.
"We play really, really hard and fast, and that's helping us," said Weakley, who had a career-high 32 points, including four 3-pointers, in a 56-39 victory over Northridge on Jan. 2. "When we get the ball, we really try to push it to get (easy) baskets. We lost so many seniors last year that I thought it would be more of a rebuilding year, but we're so athletic that teams can't handle our speed."
Worthington Christian was third in last week's Division III area coaches poll and received votes in the state poll.
Freshman guard Blessing King had 24 points in a 68-37 win over Briggs on Dec. 13 and is averaging 9.2 points, and junior guard Mianna Hartings has scored in double figures in two of Worthington Christian's last three games.
Seniors CeCi Dalton (post player) and Amanda Mayotte (wing player), junior Eliana Styer (guard), sophomore Libby Dalton (guard) and freshman Anna Schwartz (forward) also have been key contributors.
"We're really good at working together and communicating through it, and I think that's one of our strengths," CeCi Dalton said. "We always talk about if we get a steal, it's a team steal. It's not just the person who got the steal. It's because the girls in the back were working hard and using our athleticism to our advantage."
Bowlers prep for tournaments
The bowling teams don't return to Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference action until Jan. 24 when they compete against Village Academy at Sawmill Lanes.
The boys team was 6-4 overall and 6-2 in the COHSBC-C Division after beating Columbus West 1,779-1,293 on Jan. 14 and the girls were 8-2 overall and 6-1 in the COHSBC-B after beating the Cowboys 1,712-1,195.
Through nine matches, Amber Ralston was leading the girls team with a 158.3 league average, followed by Natalie Opava (158.1), Emily Weishaar (148), Coral Vaian (143.8), Lilly Marsh (141.8) and Hope Nyland (141.3). Anna Opava, Abby Lanker, Anna Valentine, Amanda Strohmeyer, Jaclyn Hamilton, Alyssa Burby, Naysa Dunlap, Rae Schreiber and Caroline Burby also have contributed.
Through nine matches, Caleb Slagle was leading the boys team with a 166.4 league average, followed by Mason Marsh (164.5), Garrett Rowda (159.7), Noah Dirscherl (151.1) and Jonah Varian (150.6). Connor Lawson, Nathan Vallangeon and Tyler White also have contributed.
Morgan shines at Northeast Classic
The swimming and diving program has a little more than a week to prepare for the MSL meet Jan. 26 at Columbus Academy.
Sophomore Lena Morgan represented the Warriors at the Northeast Classic on Jan. 12 at Branin Natatorium in Canton, placing third in diving (437.5 points) to give the girls team 16 points. Last season, she finished one spot shy from advancing to the state meet, which is held at the same site.
Also on Jan. 12, the program's swimmers competed in the Central Ohio Splash Invitational at Thomas Worthington, while the other divers competed in a meet at Westerville Recreation Center.
The boys swimmers scored 55 points to place 11th of 12 teams in the Splash Invitational, behind champion Grove City (371), while the girls swimmers scored four points to place last of 12 teams, behind champion Westerville Central (403).
Micah Shemenski, Issac Myhal and Synjin Sharp competed for the boys team and Andrea Hess, Morgan Lawrence and Anna Stathulis competed for the girls.
Andrew Lawrence and Josh Stanfield both finished in the top six of 12 competitors in the boys diving meet at Westerville Recreation Center.
Below are the coming schedules for the Worthington Christian boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and swimming & diving teams:
*Jan. 18 -- At Grandview. The Warriors lost to the Bobcats 62-56 on Dec. 8.
Jan. 22 -- At Horizon Science
Jan. 17 -- Home vs. Grove City Christian
*Jan. 19 -- Home vs. Columbus Academy. The Warriors beat the Vikings 43-21 on Dec. 7.
Jan. 21 -- Home vs. Marion Elgin
Jan. 19 -- Warrior D2 Challenge at HP Lanes
Jan. 21 -- Pioneer Classic at Westgate Entertainment Center in Lima
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 18 -- Viking Invitational at Columbus Academy
Jan. 19 -- Diving meet at Columbus School for Girls