A rapid maturation process helped the Worthington Christian High School boys basketball team finish second in the MSL-Ohio Division and earn the No. 2 seed for the Division III district tournament.
The Warriors' season ended with a 64-52 loss to sixth-seeded Grandview in a district semifinal March 5 at Dublin Jerome to finish 20-5, but they believe they'll have an opportunity for similar success -- if not more -- a year from now.
There was just one senior on the roster at season's end, and the Warriors' top five scorers are expected to return.
"Our youth played a role," said coach Kevin Weakley, whose team had split its MSL-Ohio contests with the Bobcats during the regular season, losing 62-56 on Dec. 8 and winning 43-32 on Jan. 18. "Grandview had more experience playing in district tournament games and that was certainly a factor. I give them a lot of credit. They played a great game."
From an execution standpoint, the tournament loss was a mixed bag for the Warriors. They forced 13 turnovers while committing just six and limited Grandview to five offensive rebounds and six baskets in the paint, but the Bobcats shot 9-for-17 from 3-point range while the Warriors made just one of 16 shots from behind the arc.
"The difference was (the Bobcats) had their best shooting game of the season and we had our worst," Weakley said. "Sometimes basketball is just a make-or-miss game. They made open shots, we missed them."
The Warriors' lone senior is forward Jake Nowak, who averaged 3.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists and scored five points in the tournament loss.
Freshman guard D.J. Moore, who averaged 18.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.4 steals and was named MSL-Ohio Player of the Year and first-team all-district, had 22 points in the tournament loss, while sophomore guard Tyler Kindberg, who averaged 11 points and 4.4 rebounds and was honorable mention all-district, scored 18.
"D.J. had a phenomenal freshman season," Weakley said. "He's mature beyond his years. His basketball talent speaks for itself, but what sets him apart is his character, willingness to take coaching, competitive spirit and team-first attitude. He has a very bright future ahead of him.
"Tyler Kindberg had a really bad leg injury that required surgery last February. It took time to get back to full strength, both physically and mentally. His emergence the second half of the season played a significant role in our team success."
Junior guard Derrick Hardin, who missed time late in the season with an injury, averaged 11.8 points and was second-team all-league and third-team all-district, and junior guard Nakimba Mullins averaged 10 points and 5.5 rebounds and was honorable mention all-league and all-district.
"One of my goals each year is for our team to be better at the end of the year than we were at the beginning," Weakley said. "This team went from a group of individuals to a team of players who played for each other."
Juniors Brien Wall (forward) and Steven Spayde (guard) and sophomores Drew Faieta (guard) and Isaiah Hazelwood (forward) were other contributors who are eligible to return.
Sophomore Kobe Buford, who averaged six points over the first half of the season for Upper Arlington before transferring to Worthington Christian, is a 6-foot-3 forward who also should contribute next season.
The Warriors more than doubled their win total from last season when they lost their opening district tournament game to finish 9-14.
"We were really young last year and that definitely played a part in our losing record, but we all put in hard work in the offseason and improved," Kindberg said. "It's incredible what a little bit of experience does for your team."