With his team's roster filled with freshmen and sophomores, Ready girls basketball coach Joe Lang was hoping to see the only two members of his program who are not in those classes step up in a big way this winter.
Not only have senior guard Bre Hejduk and senior forward Dani Brown nearly doubled their offensive numbers from a year ago, but they have stepped into leadership roles for a team that struggled to a 9-14 finish last season.
The Silver Knights were 5-5 before opening CCL action Jan. 9 against Watterson.
"We were on (Hejduk) all season and I was on her all fall like, 'Kid, (2019 graduate) Derricka (Bramwell) is gone and we've got to have somebody score," Lang said. "You are our best offensive player. From the second game on, all of a sudden, she got confident. She's been the key for us.
"Dani was 7-for-11 (from the floor in a 46-35 victory over Grandview on Dec. 18). I'll take that. She has to rebound the ball for us."
Ready, which also played Buckeye Valley on Jan. 11, continues league action Thursday, Jan. 16, at Hartley.
The other three teams in the CCL -- Hartley, DeSales and Watterson -- all have winning records.
Hejduk scored 20 points against Grandview and was averaging 12.7 through 10 games after she was the second-leading scorer last winter at 6.8 per game, behind Bramwell (16 ppg).
After playing both volleyball and basketball the previous seven years, Hejduk elected not to play volleyball this fall while instead focusing on basketball.
"I just worked harder in the fall before the season," she said. "I didn't play (volleyball) this year so I wasn't tired and was focused on basketball the whole fall. Last year I knew I was going to quit volleyball and just focus on basketball.
"Last year I wanted to be an offensive contributor, but it was more like four to six (points per game) and I wasn't the main (scorer). What's mostly improved is my outside shot."
Hejduk, who also averaged 5.5 points as a sophomore when Ready was a Division III district runner-up, isn't planning to play sports in college.
"I just want to have a better record than last year because (our record) wasn't very good last year," she said. "We didn't work together as a team and it was more separate, and this year we're more of a team and cheer each other on more. I care way more about winning as a senior."
Brown averaged 4.5 points last season but had increased her scoring average to 9.4 through 10 games.
Ready was without sophomore post player Sierra Schlosser and freshman guard/forward Ava Baker in late December after the two sustained head injuries in a 56-49 loss to Marion Elgin on Dec. 14. The two have since returned.
The Knights had won back-to-back games before falling to Fairfield Christian 51-43 on Jan. 6, including beating Centennial 43-42 on Jan. 4 on Hejduk's 3-pointer in the closing seconds.
"It's a lot of fun to have senior action where we get each other shots, which helps a lot," Brown said. "I don't think I really put anything up offensively (last year) and I knew this year I'd have to put more (points) up."
Boys basketball team continues strong start
The boys basketball team was 7-2 overall and 1-1 in the CCL before playing St. Charles on Jan. 10 and Hartley on Jan. 11.
The Knights continue league action Friday, Jan. 17, at home against Hartley.
Ready lost its league opener 63-54 to DeSales on Dec. 20 but won 44-37 on Jan. 3 at Watterson, which had won the past four meetings.
"The reality is that in the CCL most nights, we're blocking out a guy that's a head taller than us," coach Tony Bisutti said. "It's a lot for us to deal with."
Junior forward Darius Parham scored in double figures in seven of Ready's first nine games and was averaging 16.5 points. After averaging 15 points last season, Parham poured in 31 in a 68-64 loss to Fairfield Union in the opener Dec. 3.
Senior guard Brock Baker and junior guards Garrison Budd and P.J. Daniels all were averaging 10.5 points through nine games for the Knights, who had four regulars out with injuries during the opener but have since gotten healthier.
The win over Watterson came the day after news had spread regarding the death of Malachi Washington, a sophomore who competed for the boys track and field and football programs.
Many of those in attendance wore blue in remembrance of Washington.
"We've just been battling some tough stuff with the loss of a loved one at Ready in Malachi Washington," Daniels said. "It's a tough loss for all of us in the community. As a team, we're just growing and getting better as a team one step at a time. This game (against Watterson) was for him. We played for him."
Wrestlers set for Pickerington event
The wrestling team competes Saturday, Jan. 18, in the Pickerington North Invitational and then has two additional matches before the CCL tournament Jan. 29 at Hartley.
On Dec. 27 and 28, the Knights had five placers and finished 12th (199.5) in the 20-team West Jefferson Invitational behind champion Pemberville Eastwood (441).
The top performer was sophomore Paul Martello, who was fourth at 152 pounds.
Aiden Aiello (132) and Cameron Jones (126) were fifth, Evan O'Connell (120) finished sixth and Jacob Robinson (220) was seventh.
In the East Knox Invitational on Dec. 21, O'Connell (120) won a title, Aiello (132) and Martello (152) were runners-up, Jones (126) placed fourth, Robinson (220) was fifth and Dylan Melrose (heavyweight) finished sixth.
Below are the coming schedules for the Ready boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, girls swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 17 -- Home vs. Hartley
Jan. 18 -- Home vs. Willoughby Andrews Osborne
*Jan. 16 -- At Hartley
*Jan. 17 -- Independence at Game of Western Columbus
GIRLS SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 13 -- Grandview at Columbus Aquatics Center
Jan. 18 -- Pickerington North Invitational