After losing a 1,000-point scorer to graduation following a second consecutive winning season under coach Tony Bisutti, the Ready boys basketball team knew it would need to alter its formula for success this winter.
The Silver Knights have had to get creative at times but have continued to “find a way to win,” senior guard Troy Hixson said, even when things haven’t gone according to plan.
One example of that took place when Ready went just 10-for-22 from the free-throw line but beat Hartley 44-39 on Jan. 14.
Another occurred when Ready scored late baskets in both regulation and overtime to win 57-56 on Dec. 23 against Heath, which is one of the area’s top Division II programs.
“We haven’t played our best yet, but we’re getting better every week and every game and come tournament time, we’re going to be hard to play with,” said Hixson, who is one of three seniors in the program. “Overall, I think we’ve been good, but we still haven’t reached our max potential.”
Hixson had three 3-pointers against Hartley and has been one of the team’s top outside shooters all season.
Ready was 3-2 in the CCL after beating DeSales 57-52 on Jan. 24 and 12-3 overall before playing KIPP Columbus on Jan. 29.
The Division III district tournament drawing is Feb. 6, and the Knights figure to be in position to choose their bracket because of their expected high seed.
In the state poll released Jan. 24, Central District teams included Harvest Prep (fourth), Africentric (seventh) and Ready (12th).
“We’ve gotten off to a good start,” junior forward Kaleb Schaffer said. “We’ve beaten a really good Heath team. We have good team chemistry. I’ve played at the varsity level for three years and this is the best the team chemistry has been. We move the ball well. We shoot the ball well.
“We still aren’t happy with ourselves. ... We know we have to be better, we’re working to get better and we’re going to get better. We’ve had a lot of close games that we’ve pulled through and I think that’s one of our strong suits. We haven’t had a lot of blowouts and we’ve had a pretty tough schedule. Come tournament time when we want to make a run, we’re going to have to be prepared to finish.”
Five of Ready’s first 11 wins were by six points or fewer.
Darius Parham, who closed his prep career with 1,292 points and is now playing for Concord University, was lost to graduation after the Knights went 12-7 and reached a district semifinal for the second consecutive season.
Through 14 games, both Hixson (9.0 points) and junior point guard Luke Ruth (13.0) have more than doubled their scoring averages from last season.
Schaffer has increased his scoring average from 13.0 to 17.0 this winter, while junior wing player Charlie Russell averages 13.0 after averaging 7.0 a season ago.
The games against Heath and DeSales were the only ones through 14 contests in which the Knights gave up more than 50 points.
Having a pair of 6-foot-5 players in Russell and Schaffer should make Ready a tough out in the postseason.
“It’s a good group,” said Bisutti, who is in his fourth season. “We’ve got a ways to go in a lot of areas, but the schedule’s been pretty competitive. Our players individually made good progress with their offseason work. I never have to worry about that with these guys. They’re there 30 minutes ahead of time and 45 minutes after and I’ve got to chase them out of the gym sometimes. It’s a good problem to have.
“I thought we could have this kind of record. I’d like to see us get tougher with the ball in finishing situations. ... We’ve got to relax a little bit when we’re down there at the basket and finish the deal. I see a lot of things defensively, but every time I look up at the end of the game, the other team has 38 points, so we must be doing some things right.”
This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: Boys Basketball: Ready sharpening skills for tourney