For the second consecutive year, Quiera Lampkins earned the tournament Most Valuable Player plaque after leading the Gahanna Lincoln High School girls basketball team to the championship of the Gahanna Cage Classic.
Her performance during a 56-27 win over New Albany in the tournament final Dec. 28 also might end up being a turning point for the senior point guard, as well as for her team.
Lampkins, who had eight points in a 46-31 win over DeSales in the first round Dec. 27, had 11 points and eight assists against New Albany as Gahanna improved to 9-2.
The fact she also had eight steals in the championship game could be considered evidence that a recent change to her defensive approach is paying off.
"I'm a defensive stopper, but lately I've been backing off of people more," said Lampkins, whose team has won the last three Cage Classics. "I guess this game was probably the first game I've fouled without reaching."
The 5-foot-8 Lampkins said she too often has helped guard players she's not assigned to in Gahanna's man-to-man defense.
This has caused her to sometimes get into foul trouble.
"In the past she was overaggressive," coach Rick Hauser said. "She picked off a couple passes (against New Albany). When she stays on the floor and quits fouling, she's really good. The last few games she's gotten to the point that she's not just good, she makes the other players around her better."
"(Hauser) and I go back and forth about it," Lampkins said. "I would always be the one helping someone else and then I'd have to go out and get to (the) girl (I'm guarding). He said, 'You can help but you don't have to be extreme about it.'"
Lampkins and classmates Chrishna Butler and Maddison Blackwell all had two steals in the first quarter against New Albany, as Gahanna forced eight turnovers in the period and led 18-0 heading into the second quarter.
The Eagles didn't score their first basket until 6 minutes, 35 seconds left in the second. The Lions led 36-12 at halftime.
Blackwell had 12 points against DeSales and 13 points and six rebounds against New Albany to also make the all-tournament team.
Butler, who was MVP of the 2010 Cage Classic, had 13 points against New Albany. Sydney Stokes scored all seven of her points in the opening quarter to give the Lions, according to Lampkins, an early boost of confidence.
"We played well for four quarters," Hauser said. "Most years (winning the Cage Classic) has been gutty because it's the first time we play (back-to-back days), but we've already gone back-to-back four times (this season). We did it and we didn't even get to practice the day after Christmas."
Eastmoor Academy beat DeSales 68-42 in the consolation game.
The Lions return to OCC-Ohio Division play Friday, Jan. 4, against visiting Grove City with a 4-1 league record.
During a 36-21 victory over Lancaster on Dec. 21, Butler went down with what was diagnosed as a sprained medial collateral ligament. She did not play in a 53-40 win Dec. 22 at Youngstown Ursuline but felt well enough to contribute nine points against DeSales.
Gahanna's backcourt also should get another boost in mid-January when senior Reyna Montgomery is expected to return from an injury that has sidelined her all season. She has been a key player since her freshman season and averaged 6.1 points a year ago.
"It looks like we'll get her back about two or three weeks from now, so that'll be exciting," Hauser said. "(Stokes) is a sophomore who is starting to figure things out. (Blackwell) is starting to be more aggressive with the ball."
Boys bounce back from loss
The boys basketball team returns to league play Friday, Jan. 4, at Grove City, and is on a two-game winning streak since losing to Reynoldsburg 40-38 on Dec. 18.
Javon Bess and Manny Powell did not play against the Raiders because of disciplinary reasons but returned for wins over Lancaster (69-34 on Dec. 21) and Independence (77-72 on Dec. 28).
Aaron Jackson scored 24 points and Bess added 18 against Independence as the Lions improved to 6-1.
Last season, Gahanna beat Grove City 66-53 and 71-62 as the teams tied for third in the OCC-Ohio at 8-6, behind Pickerington Central (13-1) and Newark (11-3).