As the members of the Worthington Christian boys basketball team filed out of the locker room Jan. 4 at Capital University following a fifth consecutive victory, senior guard Derrick Hardin took his time getting ready to leave.
There was nothing self-centered, though, about his nature as he reflected on what has been a strong first half of the season for his team and a breakthrough few weeks for him personally.
"This guy right here has been giving me the ball a lot," Hardin said while putting his hand on sophomore guard D.J. Moore's shoulder. "Not only him, but the rest of my teammates are getting me the ball."
With Moore and junior guard Tyler Kindberg among a group of players who missed time in December with injuries, Hardin proved to be the steadying hand that got the Warriors through.
Hardin is averaging 18.1 points for the Warriors, who lost to Buckeye Valley 55-51 on Jan. 7 and Whitehall 48-40 on Jan. 11 but are 8-4 overall and 2-3 in the MSL-Ohio Division.
Moore, who averaged 18.4 points and was named league Player of the Year last season, missed first three games of this season with a left big toe injury.
The Warriors opened Nov. 30 with a 72-60 loss to Dayton Thurgood Marshall despite getting 33 points from Hardin.
With Kindberg out for the first eight games, Worthington Christian also lost to Grandview 66-42 on Dec. 13 in what could only be described by coach Kevin Weakley as "a bottoming point."
"We're starting to get healthy," Weakley said. "Early in the season, Grandview put it on us. We weren't healthy, we weren't playing well and we weren't having good practices. Sometimes you have to have those times where you have to hit the bottom. I've always believed that when you hit the bottom, you bounce. We started having better practices and getting guys back. We're starting to have a little bit of cohesion."
Much of what the Warriors have built started with Hardin, who averaged 11.8 points and was third-team all-district last season.
He had 22 points, including six 3-pointers, in a 60-49 win over St. Charles on Jan. 4.
Hardin and his brother, senior Nakimba Mullins Jr., along with Kindberg were among the contributors in the 2017-18 season when the Warriors finished 9-14.
Mullins Jr. is another player who has been battling injuries after being one of the team's leading scorers last season.
"My dad (Nakimba Mullins Sr.) is a basketball junkie and we play basketball all the time," said the 6-foot-2 Hardin, who has received interest from several colleges, including Wheeling and Ohio Northern.
Nakimba Mullins Sr. is a 1993 Worthington Christian graduate who was a senior when Weakley was a freshman.
"We're really proud of (Hardin) because he's one of those program kids and has really taken to coaching," Weakley said. "If you look at him as a freshman and sophomore to where he is now, he's taken our coaching and invested all of that time and energy when no one watches in the gym. He's significantly better than he was a year ago. He's playing both ends of the floor, competing, taking much better shots and his shooting percentage is higher than it's ever been because his shot selection is better. He's a senior and that's what you'd expect from someone who loves the program."
Girls basketball team out to strong start
The girls basketball team could face one of its bigger challenges of the regular season Thursday, Jan. 16, when it plays host to Berne Union, which was 12-1 before playing Fisher Catholic on Jan. 14.
The Warriors had won four games in a row and were 11-1 overall and 8-0 in the MSL-Ohio before playing Grandview on Jan. 14.
"We've been doing really well and getting better," junior guard Katherine Weakley said. "We just play fast and like to get easy baskets. Our chemistry is really good. We like to play together and that's a big thing."
The Warriors went 21-3 in their only season under Chris Joseph last winter and haven't taken a step back under Jason Dawson, a 2006 Worthington Christian graduate who had been serving as an assistant with the boys program.
Weakley was averaging 16.5 points before Jan. 14.
Meghan Mayotte, a forward, and Megan Weakley, a wing player, have stepped into key roles as freshmen.
Senior guard Mianna Hartings, junior wing player Libby Dalton and sophomore wing player Blessing King also have been among the top players.
Hartings and senior guard Eliana Styer have missed time with injuries.
The Warriors' only loss through 12 games came against Westerville North, 67-42 on Dec. 27.
"It's been going pretty well, just learning our team and learning what we can do to be efficient," Dawson said. "We had some bumps and bruises and lost a tough one to Westerville North. We've had some tough games against some good teams, but they've been battle-tested and have still been trying to grow."
League play resumes for bowling teams
The bowling teams returned to action in the COHSBC on Jan. 8 after being off from league play for nearly three weeks.
In their return, the boys defeated Columbus West 1,995-938 at HP Lanes and the girls beat the Cowboys 1,576-999. Then on Jan. 9, the boys lost to DeSales 2,015-1,848 at HP Lanes and the girls fell to the Stallions 1,731-1,519.
Before a match against Bexley on Jan. 15, the girls were 8-1 overall and 5-0 in the COHSBC-C and the boys were 6-3 overall and 4-2 in the COHSBC-C.
Amber Ralston was leading the girls team with a 162.7 average through nine matches, with Abby Lanker, Lilly Marsh, Hope Nyland, Natalie Opava, Coral Varian and Emily Weishaar also among the key players.
"They're all stepping it up this season, so I'm pretty happy with them," coach Matt Hamilton said. "Amber Ralston tied the school record for highest game (a 234 on Dec. 4 against Centennial) and everybody else, if you look at their averages, they seem pretty focused. It's kind of difficult because I have so many good bowlers. It's hard to say who gets the start because they all could start for pretty much any team."
Caleb Slagle was leading the boys team with a 188.7 average through nine matches, with Noah Dirscherl, Connor Lawson, Mason Marsh, Jonah Varian and Tyler White also being key contributors.
Below are the coming schedules for the Worthington Christian boys basketball, girls basketball and bowling teams:
*Jan. 17 -- At Columbus Academy
Jan. 20 -- At Johnstown
Jan. 16 -- Home vs. Berne Union
*Jan. 18 -- Home vs. Bexley. The Warriors beat the Lions 39-26 on Dec. 6.
Jan. 20 -- At Johnstown
*Jan. 17 -- Columbus South at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl
Jan. 18 -- Warrior Challenge at HP Lanes
Jan. 20 -- Pioneer Classic at Westgate Entertainment Center in Lima
*Jan. 21 -- Whetstone at HP Lanes