WORTHINGTON, Ohio -- With a #1 AP Division III state rank and the top spot in the 270 Power Rankings, Worthington Christian can almost always expect their opponent’s best effort.
On Wednesday night, that was the case when Columbus Academy got within a one-point deficit with less than 90 seconds in the game, but ultimately fell short as the Warriors secured a 61-56 victory.
Worthington Christian’s star lead guard DJ Moore played an all-around excellent game, but saved his best quarter when it mattered the most. The junior played a near flawless fourth, as he scored nine of his team-high 19 points that included seven-of-eight makes from the free throw line.
Moore’s tremendous fourth-quarter performance was joined by senior Kobe Buford, who grabbed key defensive rebounds and helped seal the game at the line in the final minute. Buford ended with nine points and four rebounds.
Despite the win, the Warriors were outscored by Columbus Academy 34-30 in the second half, but offensive production was a struggle early on for the Vikings.
Academy scored 22 points in the first half, with only five made field goals.
Yet the offense picked up steam for the Vikings in the third, in large credit to junior Tanner Compton who scored 10 of his game-high 21 points in the period. Compton played an excellent game and gave Academy much-needed offensive production to hang with the talented Warriors roster.
Ultimately, the Vikings struggled with the Warriors press defense and gave up too many turnovers. However, when Academy was able to settle into their half-court offense, they did a good job of finding open cuts for easy baskets, enough to consistently get within a single possession in the fourth.
Academy junior post Kevin Reeves was the beneficiary for much of the motion offense, as he scored 13 points and had a team-high six rebounds.
Although he did not score on Wednesday, Academy senior Sonari Hart led the Vikings with four assists. Fellow senior Brady Hess also added three assists along with his ten points.
For Worthington Christian, they received fantastic production from their frontcourt, as the Vikings had trouble keeping their big-man duo of Isaiah Hazelwood and freshman Sam Johnson off the glass. Johnson had one of the best games of his young career, as he tied a career-high with 16 points and added a game-high seven rebounds.
Senior Tyler Kindberg finished with seven points, five rebounds and a highlight-worthy block on a breakaway lay-up.
The Warriors (17-1) will look to defend their top ranked position when they travel to Buckeye Valley on Friday.
Columbus Academy (8-5) aims to bounce back on Friday as they play Bexley.
DJ Moore (6'3 PG / Worthington Christian / 2022): The Liberty-commit once again put together an excellent performance, as he kept his team composed, delivered big plays and made free throws with the game on the line. Moore did a little bit of everything on Wednesday. He hit on two three-pointers, led his team with four beautiful assists and crashed the boards, oftentimes on the offensive glass, as he gave the Warriors key critical second-chance possessions. The three-year starter plays and leads like a senior and tonight his leadership was critical to finish the game. Bonus points to Moore for not being too cool for good sportsmanship, as we often see the guard help his opponents up from the floor and acknowledge any hard fouls he commits. Moore is a special player that will no doubt be one of the most talented players in the Division III tournament.
Sam Johnson (6'5 PF / Worthington Christian / 2024): Only a freshman, Johnson is already making a huge impact for a Warriors roster filled with upperclassmen. On Wednesday, Johnson was a problem for the Vikings defense. Although not the flashiest way to score, Johnson scored eight of his 16 points at the foul line, with each trip to the line well earned. Johnson grabbed multiple offensive rebounds that turned into points or free throw opportunities. While still possessing a thin frame that’s somewhat expected for a freshman, Johnson attacked the glass well and fought through hard fouls. We also saw him run the floor well, which included a beautiful full court feed from Moore that led to a crucial lay-up. On a team that usually starts four seniors, Johnson has already emerged as a key player for the Warriors and gets us excited for what’s to come in his next three years.
Tanner Compton (6'0 PG / Columbus Academy / 2022): On a team that lacks a ton of pure offensive talent, Compton was the most natural scorer for the Vikings on Wednesday night. His 21 points came from all spots on the floor; lay-ups, mid-range, a three-pointer and also a perfect eight-of-eight at the charity stripe. Although not the biggest guard, Compton is quick and looked to push tempo at any opportunity. Compton also showed strength on an impressive and-one finish that cut Worthington’s lead to two points in the final minutes. We enjoyed how Compton competed tonight and look forward to seeing if he can continue this level of offense into March.
Kevin Reeves (6’6 PF / Columbus Academy / 2022): The main vertical threat for Academy, Reeves put together an excellent second-half, with 11 of his 13 points coming in the final two periods. A majority of Reeves buckets came from his ability to move well without the ball and putting himself in spots that allowed for easy finishes. Reeves showcased good hands, as he caught most passes his way in the lane, and strong finishes. When Academy faces teams that have length, Reeves is a crucial aspect for the Vikings success.