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One Win Away: DJ Moore's game winner sinks Cincinnati Taft

By Zach Fleer, 03/19/21, 6:45PM EDT

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Worthington Christian survived Cincinnati Taft thanks to DJ Moore's late game play

DAYTON, Ohio -- On Wednesday at 5 a.m., DJ Moore woke up for an early morning workout with two other players who are playing in this week's state tournament.

The others? Westerville Central's Tasos Cook and DeSales' Des Watson. Both have had memorable game winners this season, with Cook being the latest when he hit a half court runner at the buzzer to lead the Warhawks into the state tournament for the first time ever.

Watson had his moment of glory when he stole the ball from Linden-McKinley's Chance Groce and hit a half court buzzer beater of his own to beat the Panthers in the regular season finale which led into a tournament run that has the Stallions among the final four in Division II.

These three players already had one thing in common - all are district players of the year. After Friday night's Division III state semifinal, they can add another similarity.

Taking and making the game-tying and game-winning shots in an absolute battle against Cincinnati Taft, Moore's mid-range pull up jumper sank the Senators, leading Worthington Christian into the first state title game since 2008, 47-45.

After Cincinnati Taft took a 45-43 lead with 1:18 to go, Moore took over. Coming down and hitting a mid-range jumper with 54 seconds to go, Moore knotted the game at 45.

Worthington Christian forced a major turnover 17 seconds later when Tyler Kindberg poked the ball away from Brandon Cromer and gave the Warriors the final possession with 37 seconds to go.

There was no doubt in anyone's mind who would have the last shot. Controlling the ball at the top of the key for the final 37 seconds, Moore took a pass from Sam Johnson and split a double team just inside the three-point line and pulled up for a cold-blooded jumper with only a few ticks left.

Hitting nothing but net, Moore's jumper signified a 47-45 victory for Worthington Christian and led the Warriors one step closer to a state championship. 

Moore took over when it mattered most, hitting the final two jumpers of the game and finishing with a team-high 20 points. The Liberty commit added 10 rebounds and four assists, controlling the game on both ends of the floor after a less than stellar first half.

Kindberg added 11 points and gave Worthington Christian major production with his high-wire athleticism. The Indiana Wesleyan commit was terrific on both ends and forced the steal that led to Moore's clutch bucket.

In the front court, junior Isaiah Hazelwood added seven points and freshman forward Sam Johnson added six points for the Warriors. While he only finished with three points, senior Kobe Buford continued to make winning plays for this team, as he had a game-high +7 in his 26 minutes on the floor. Buford's team-first attitude and infectious energy have been highly important in this run for Worthington Christian.

For Cincinnati Taft, Cromer led all scorers with 12 points. Jaymarco Berry added 10 points while prized sophomore Rayvon Griffith finished with nine points and five rebounds.

Worthington Christian advances to the state finals where they will take on the winner of Ottawa-Glandorf and Lutheran East on Sunday at 2 p.m. at UD Arena. 

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