With its core players back, expectations are high for the Gahanna Christian Academy girls basketball team.
The Eagles lost only Aliyah Hatcher to graduation after finishing last season 12-7 overall and 7-5 in the MOCAL.
Gahanna Christian lost to Berne Union 50-44 in the second round of the Division IV district tournament after a first-round bye.
The Eagles opened this season by defeating Northside Christian 62-26 on Nov. 27.
Senior guard Christina Grubich (5-foot-6) scored 19 points, 5-6 sophomore guard Dana Parkman scored 14 and 5-8 senior post player Alex Sutton scored 10.
The Eagles begin league play Tuesday, Dec. 11, at Delaware Christian.
"We think it's going to be our year this year," said coach John Grubich, who is in his third season. "With what we've done in some scrimmages and the first game -- we have a long way to go -- but we're very excited and very optimistic."
Other players back are seniors Disnee-Rae Hairston (5-6, guard), Hope Leimbach (5-7, post player) and Chelsea Miller (5-2, guard) and sophomores Alex Grubich (5-5, point guard) and Cassie Miller (5-1, guard).
Christina and Alex Grubich are sisters and the daughters of coach Grubich.
Other players are senior Mana Kassa (5-7, guard), junior Jalyn Meade (5-5, forward), sophomore Bailey Moore (5-11, post player) and freshman Makhija Minneyfield (5-7, guard).
Last season, Parkman led the team in points (14.2) and steals (5.4) per game and was first-team all-league, second-team all-district and honorable mention all-state.
Christina Grubich and Sutton were second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Sutton led the team in rebounding at 10.8 per game and was second in scoring at 9.3 points per game. Christina Grubich averaged 8.8 points.
Hatcher and Alex Grubich were honorable mention all-league.
Gahanna Christian finished third in the league last year behind Tree of Life (12-0) and Fairfield Christian (9-3) and ahead of Delaware Christian (6-6), Grove City Christian (4-8), Granville Christian (3-9) and Madison Christian (1-11).
"We're really thinking that this is going to be our year," coach Grubich said. "Our team goal is to win out. We're talking league champions, district final, regional final, state. Those are our goals. We just want to better ourselves from last year and the year before. We're really happy with the people we have and we think we can do it. The kids believe in themselves."
Boys basketball team has new coach
Chris Joseph has replaced Roger Edwards as coach of the boys basketball team.
Edwards resigned over the summer and now is coaching at Grace Academy in Chattanooga, Tenn.
"We needed a coach and I love to coach," said Joseph, who is the principal at Gahanna Christian. "There are some players, but the challenge comes since every coach has his own philosophy and a way they do things. Learning a whole new system has been the challenge."
Joseph previously coached at the AAU and high school levels. He coached the girls basketball team at Worthington Christian from 1996-2005 and also coached girls basketball at DeSales and Delaware Christian.
The Eagles opened by defeating Northside Christian 56-52 on Nov. 30.
Gahanna Christian begins MOCAL play Dec. 14 at Tree of Life.
Last season, the Eagles finished 11-11 overall, losing to second-seeded Newark Catholic 78-43 in a district semifinal. Gahanna Christian had a first-round bye and defeated Delaware Christian 66-65 in two overtimes in a second-round game.
The Eagles lost four players from a year to graduation, including Keegan Parsons, who was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
The top returnees are 6-1 senior point guard Anthony Hebron, who was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district last season, and 6-1 senior guard Caleb McLaughlin, who was honorable mention all-league.
Hebron, who averaged 8.0 points last season, scored 12 in the opener.
Also back are senior Jon Oldfield (6-1, forward/guard), juniors Malik Johnson (5-11, guard) and Caleb Walker (6-3, forward) and sophomore Michael Ramsey (6-5, post player).
Walker, who averaged 9.0 points last season, scored 18 in the opener.
Also on the team are junior Connor Dyckes (5-9, guard), sophomores Anthony Barnes (5-9, guard), Isaiah Clark (5-11, guard) and Sam Sibert (5-10, guard) and freshmen Emmanuel Dapaa (5-9, guard) and Tyler Johnson (5-9, guard).
"These guys want to play together. They're learning how to play together," Joseph said. "They're developing a chemistry that I like. There are no real dominant players, but we have some good players."
Last season, Gahanna Christian tied Delaware Christian for third in the league at 7-5, behind Fairfield Christian (12-0) and Tree of Life (9-3) and ahead of Granville Christian (5-7), Grove City Christian (2-10) and Madison Christian (0-12).
"By the end of the season we want to be good enough to possibly make a run to the district championship game," Joseph said. "That's the goal right now. We want to try and cut down a few nets. It's going to be a process. It takes a lot to learn a new system."