Gahanna Lincoln High School boys basketball coach Tony Staib had difficulty forming the words when asked to provide context for what his team accomplished this season.

Gahanna Lincoln High School boys basketball coach Tony Staib had difficulty forming the words when asked to provide context for what his team accomplished this season.

"It's kind of hard to talk about without crying," Staib said moments after the Lions' 62-50 loss to eventual state champion Massillon Jackson in a Division I state semifinal last Friday at Ohio State's Schottenstein Center. "You saw the (fans) here (last Friday). A group of guys literally put a community on their back."

The most successful team in program history leaves quite a legacy. This Lions squad was the first to go 20-0 during a regular season, the first to win a district championship and the first to win a regional title.

Gahanna finished 26-1 overall, setting a program record for wins, and won the OCC-Ohio championship at 14-0, securing the title with three games left.

Pickerington North finished second in the OCC-Ohio at 10-4, followed by Pickerington Central and Reynoldsburg at 8-6, Grove City and Newark at 7-7, Lancaster at 2-12 and Groveport at 0-14.

"I think it sets the standards pretty high," senior guard Rob Brandenberg said. "People are now expecting good postseason success. In the past we've had good seasons, but I think now people are going to start expecting district championships."

"This team has really raised the bar for our program," said Staib, whose team was second in the final state poll. "It really has provided a great example for our younger players. We felt our program was on the map. Now Gahanna Lincoln is a well-known name in the state."

Seeded second, Gahanna opened the district tournament with an 88-39 win over Franklin Heights on Feb. 24. It then defeated Watkins Memorial 106-27 in the second round on Feb. 27 and Reynoldsburg 76-59 in a district semifinal on March 6 before beating sixth-seeded Westerville North 60-54 in overtime in a district final March 13.

The Lions then beat Dublin Coffman 59-53 in a regional semifinal on March 17 before defeating Northland 71-45 in a regional final on March 20 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.

The win over Northland may go down as one of the greatest upsets in the history of the district tournament, as the Vikings not only were first in the final state poll, but were ranked first in USA Today's Super 25 poll. The Vikings were led by 6-foot-9 post player Jared Sullinger, who was named the nation's Player of the Year.

Staib has been told the game will be remembered in the same vein as Jerry Lucas' Middletown team having a 79-game winning streak snapped in the 1958 state tournament.

"As time goes on, people will remember our Northland game more than playing in front of 15,000 people at the Schott," Staib said. "It was a team everybody said that couldn't be beat. The way we beat them, it was one of those magical games that puts an exclamation point on the season for these guys."

Northland entered the game with a roster full of Division I college recruits, including two Ohio State signees in Sullinger and J.D. Weatherspoon. The Vikings had won 37-straight games, including the 2009 state title, and had posted wins over national powers Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy and Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep.

"Even if we would have won the state title, that's something that's always going to be remembered," Brandenberg said. "Nobody thought we could win it how we won it."

Gahanna loses seven seniors, including four starters in Brandenberg, Sam Bott, Anthony Jackson and Justin McDowell.

Brandenberg, who has signed with Virginia Commonwealth, was honorable mention all-state, second-team all-district and the OCC-Ohio Player of the Year. Jackson made honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league.

Leading the expected returnees is junior point guard Stevie Taylor, who made honorable mention all-state, second-team all-district and first-team all-league, but there won't be much experience around him.

"It will be a year where a lot of people will be doubting Gahanna," Brandenberg said. "But I think they still have a chance to do some good things."