Boys Basketball: D.J. Moore's buzzer beater lifts Worthington Christian Warriors into state final
DAYTON – As he reflected on making the final shot in a Division III state semifinal March 19, Worthington Christian boys basketball player D.J. Moore commented that it was “probably” one of the biggest shots of his prep career.
Before the sentence was completed, both coach Kevin Weakley and teammate Tyler Kindberg interjected that it was “definitely” the biggest basket the junior guard has ever made.
A steal by Kindberg with 40 seconds to go and the game tied gave the Warriors a chance to set up a final shot against Cincinnati Taft.
There was little question the opportunity would go to Moore, who passed momentarily to teammate Sam Johnson to avoid a five-second call, got the ball back and drove to about the foul line, where he released a game-winning jumper just before the buzzer sounded for a 47-45 victory.
The win advanced the Warriors to the state championship game at 2 p.m. March 21 against Cleveland Heights Lutheran East at the University of Dayton. It will be their first appearance in that contest since they were Division IV runners-up in 2008.
Worthington Christian’s only state title came in 1999, also in Division IV.
“We were going to run a play and it was there and I took it,” Moore said. “I got past my guy off the screen, got clipped by the defender in the paint and just pulled up. It was whatever the defense gave me.
“It was a blur. It went in and I saw it go in. I looked at the (clock) and was like, ‘Dang, that’s game.’ I’m in shock.”
Moore missed a pair of shots and both free throws he attempted in the opening quarter but found his groove during the second period, scoring seven of his 20 points.
Worthington Christian, which improved to 28-1, took its first lead since early in the game on a dunk by Kindberg with 4:24 to go in the third quarter.
The Warriors got one basket apiece from Kindberg and Isaiah Hazelwood during the opening minute of the fourth quarter to open up a 41-36 lead, but Taft scored the next six points.
The Senators took a 45-43 lead with 1:15 to go on a basket by Rayvon Griffith, but Moore scored with 55 seconds left to tie it.
Griffith, a 6-foot-5 forward who came in averaging 23.5 points, was limited to nine points and five rebounds, in part because of the defense of Tommy Anthony and Kobe Buford.
Kindberg finished with 11 points, but his steal to set up the final possession might have been his biggest contribution.
“I saw a guy drive and saw D.J. reach in and he got a tip on it,” Kindberg said. “When I saw the ball, I was thinking, ‘This is my whole career right here’ and I had to get that ball. I don’t think I’ve ever moved faster to get to a ball in my life.”
Moore also had 10 rebounds, Hazelwood had seven points and five rebounds and Johnson added six points for the Warriors, who limited Taft to 5-for-18 shooting from 3-point range.
Yaaco Nelson, a senior starting guard for Taft, played only 17:44 because of foul trouble and was held to eight points. Brandon Cromer had 12 points to lead the Senators, who finished 16-5.
“We watched Taft on film and they’re really hard to guard,” Weakley said. “When I look at the stats, I felt like we needed to turn it over 10 or fewer times and we (had seven). I’m really proud of our players.”