WHITEHALL, Ohio -- Coming into a tough road environment at Whitehall trailing by a game in a do or die situation in the MSL-Ohio, Worthington Christian played like a team on a mission.
Jumping out to an early lead and never looking back, Worthington Christian (16-4, 8-3) took advantage of detrimental Whitehall (12-8, 8-3) foul trouble to hold off a furious rally in a 48-41 victory that knotted the Warriors and Rams atop the division.
Worthington Christian got big-time production from junior guard Kobe Buford and sophomore guard DJ Moore, who combined for 32 big points. Buford started off hot, scoring on the interior and helping Worthington Christian jump out to a 29-14 halftime lead with 12 points.
Moore then took over in the second half, helping the Warriors extend its lead to a game-high 19 points at 37-18 with 4:05 to go in the third.
This is where Whitehall made its charge. Responding with a 15-5 run that spanned five and a half minutes, the Rams closed to 39-33 with 6:37 remaining.
Buford struck back on the following possession, burying a corner three to extend Worthington Christian's lead back to nine points. The junior guard then took a big charge moments later after Whitehall cut the lead to five points with 1:31 to go.
Buford and Moore knocked down clutch free throws in the final minute to lead Worthington Christian to its sixth-straight league win. After losing three of its first five games in the MSL-Ohio, Worthington Christian has responded beautifully as the Warriors now have a chance to secure an outright league title.
Hosting Columbus Academy on Friday, the Warriors, with a win and a Whitehall loss on the road at Buckeye Valley, could become MSL-Ohio league champs. In a division that is as tough as any from top to bottom, Worthington Christian has played with championship DNA as of late, taking down league powers in Buckeye Valley, Grandview Heights, Wellington and Whitehall in a span of two and a half weeks.
Buford led all scorers with 17 points, hitting two big threes and providing the Warriors with reliable inside scoring. Moore added 15 points, keeping the ball on a string, handling tight, physical pressure and making plays for Worthington Christian.
Senior guard Derrick Hardin added nine points, while junior wing Tyler Kindberg pitched in seven.
Worthington Christian turned in a magnificent defensive performance, holding every Whitehall player to single digits, as star junior wing Royal Sibley was held to eight points, all of which in the second half after picking up his third foul with 5:16 to go in the half.
Senior guard Amir Dallas had a team-high nine points for Whitehall, turning in a solid defensive performance, while Sibley and junior wing Kievon Wiggins each added eight points.
Losing two of its last three league games, Whitehall will need to turn the tide on Friday as the Rams head to Buckeye Valley for a challenging road test against a Barons team that is getting healthy at the right time.
Worthington Christian, seeded No. 2 and in the same district as reigning state champ Harvest Prep in Division III, is playing with supreme confidence and has won eight-straight games. Not losing since a month ago Tuesday, Worthington Christian can secure the first of potentially multiple titles on Friday against Columbus Academy.