WORTHINGTON, Ohio -- The boys high school basketball season officially kicked off in Central Ohio on Wednesday evening, as Worthington Christian hosted River Valley in a non-conference dual.
It was a tale of two halves, as Worthington Christian turned an 8-point halftime lead into a massive 37-point win to begin what could be a special season for the Warriors.
From the opening tip, the first half was defined by its physicality as both teams came out with energy. Initially, the Vikings kept pace, trailing by eight points at the end of both the first and second quarter.
They were led by senior 5-foot-10 point guard Ethan Bell, who had 18 points in the first half and finished with 25 total.
The Vikings also had some early success limiting the scoring of junior point guard and Liberty commit, DJ Moore. River Valley’s trio of guards did a nice job of being physical and preventing Moore from driving to the basket, holding him to six points in the first half.
But like the true, all-around point guard that Moore is, he took what the defense gave and was excellent passing the ball, finishing with 10 assists and ultimately 12 points in the game.
The second half scoring surge from Worthington Christian became too much. Senior Tyler Kindberg scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half and an all-around team effort contributed towards a Warriors lead as all five starters posted double figures in points.
A surprise starter for the Warriors was freshman Sam Johnson, a 6-foot-5 forward who had a fantastic high school debut, sharing a team-high 15 points, eight rebounds, and adding two assists.
Johnson, along with senior 6-foot-5 forward Isaiah Hazelwood (13 points, six rebounds, two assists) made for a strong post presence for the Warriors.
Fellow senior Kobe Buford was dialed in from deep early, hitting three triples in the first half to finish with 11 points in the game.
For River Valley, outside of Bell, the Vikings struggled to find consistent scoring, as senior Dylan Johnson was the next highest scorer with eight points. Credit to the Warriors defense for a physical, disruptive effort that led to a visible frustration from the Vikings.
The Warriors are back in action a few days after Thanksgiving when they take on Johnstown on Saturday. The Johnnies achieved what Worthington Christian fell short of last season, winning a district title in Division III, which should make Saturday's matchup one of the best in the early going of the season.
River Valley will have a chance to amend their loss when they host Clear Fork this Saturday, November 28.
DJ Moore (6'3 PG / Worthington Christian / 2022): The junior point guard, fresh off his summer commitment to Liberty University, doesn’t need to be his team’s highest scorer to make a difference. While the Vikings limited Moore’s shot selection, the three-year starter consistently found the open teammate, finishing with 10 assists and adding four rebounds. Moore might have the quickest zip on his pass in the area. His effort and physicality is also evident on the defensive side, as Moore came away with several steals and disruptions.
Ethan Bell (5'10 PG / River Valley / 2021): How many times have you heard it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the fight in the dog? The cliché applies to Bell, who at just 5-foot-10, put forth perhaps the greatest effort of any player on the court. Scoring a game-high 25 points, Bell was making shots from all levels. He also worked his tail off on the defensive end, giving up several inches to Moore, but still forcing Moore to earn his production. Bell is one of the toughest pound for pound guards that you'll find in the area, as he will be one of the very best small school players in Central Ohio this winter. Division III programs should have him at the top of their priority lists.
Tyler Kindberg (6'3 WG / Worthington Christian / 2021): A slow start for the senior wing guard didn’t prevent the all-around player from making a major impact overall. Kindberg was the spark plug that helped create the second-half run, scoring nine points in the third quarter and was consistently active on the defensive end. Kindberg has a solid frame, a high-motor and is one of the more versatile players on the Warriors roster. Shooting the ball at a high level on Wednesday, Kindberg showed flashes of the major upside that he possesses, as he is one of the elite athletes in the area, evident by the fact that he was the district player of the year in soccer this past fall.
Isaiah Hazelwood (6'5 PF / Worthington Christian / 2021): The senior power forward had an extremely productive game, as he was pivotal for the Warriors to take an early lead, scoring nine points in the first quarter. He finished with 13 points and six rebounds and was constantly making a presence on both ends of the floor. Hazelwood made an impact from the opening tip, as Worthington Christian greatly relied on his size and length, a trend that will continue for the rest of the season.
Sam Johnson (6'5 PF / Worthington Christian / 2024): One heck of a high school debut for the freshman. Co-leading the team in scoring (15) and rebounds (8), Johnson already possesses a built frame for his age. He showed advanced, disciplined moves and finishes in the post and also stretched his game beyond the arc, nailing a three-pointer in the second half. Defensively, he was active on the boards and helped create turnovers as well. Johnson will be a rising prospect that we definitely will be keeping a close eye on, as he looks to have a chance to keep stretching out and adding to an already impressive skill set for his size.