Despite losing its top player from a year ago to graduation and its coach, the Gahanna Christian Academy boys basketball team has started the season on a positive note and is an early contender for the MOCAL title.
After losing to Columbus South 63-54 on Jan. 7, the Eagles took records of 7-3 overall and 3-0 in the MOCAL into a home game against Fairfield Christian on Thursday, Jan. 10.
The Eagles have adjusted to playing without 2012 graduate Keegan Parsons and coach Roger Edwards, who resigned after last season and was replaced by Chris Joseph, the school's principal.
"They're learning how to play together," Joseph said. "They're willing to learn and develop and learn a new system. They're good kids to work with. They have good hearts, I like that."
Gahanna Christian bounced back from a 50-43 loss to Central Crossing on Dec. 29 to defeat Gilead Christian 61-20 on Jan. 3 as Anthony Hebron and Caleb Walker each scored 14 points.
The Eagles opened league play with wins over Tree of Life (59-57 on Dec. 14), Delaware Christian (57-49 on Dec. 18) and Granville Christian (64-63 on Dec. 22).
Against Granville Christian, Walker made one of two free throws with 2 seconds remaining to give the Eagles the win.
Last season, Gahanna Christian lost to Fairfield Christian 68-37 and 61-52 on its way to tying Delaware Christian for third (7-5) in the league as Fairfield Christian went 12-0.
"Fairfield is probably the best team in the league. That's going to be a tough one," Joseph said. "We're looking forward to it. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain."
Gahanna Christian has offset the loss of Parsons, who averaged 18 points last season, with a balanced attack. The Eagles had four players score in double figures in two of their first nine games and three scored in double figures in five games.
Despite the strong start, Joseph said the team still needs to improve in some areas.
"We're working on our team defense," he said. "Transition offense, we haven't done real well, but we really haven't pushed it yet. We're just trying to get our half-court stuff down before we really push it. Our half-court stuff is getting better."
Girls basketball team off to strong start
The girls basketball team entered the season with goals of winning league and district titles, and after winning 10 of their first 12 games, the Eagles appeared to be on target for those goals.
Coach John Grubich, however, stressed his team is still looking for consistency.
"We're striving to be better," he said. "We're really trying to put everything together. We're really concentrating on our turnovers, our shooting percentages. We really haven't hit all four or five of those together in one game. We're getting better as the season goes."
Before playing Madison Christian on Jan. 8, Gahanna Christian's losses were to Fairfield Christian (39-36 on Dec. 20) and Shekinah Christian (53-47 in overtime Jan. 7).
The Eagles play at Fairfield Christian on Jan. 25.
"We didn't shoot very well against Fairfield (on Dec. 20)," Grubich said. "We had chances to take the lead and win it and didn't produce."
Gahanna Christian was 3-1 in the league before playing Madison Christian, and that included a 41-31 win over Tree of Life on Dec. 22. Last season, Tree of Life won the league at 12-0.
Through 10 games, sophomore guard Dana Parkman was leading the team in scoring at 19.4 points per game. She was named Most Valuable Player of the Warrior Classic at Harvest Prep as the Eagles defeated Xenia Christian 59-38 in the first round Dec. 27 and Mifflin 58-46 in the title game Dec. 29.
"Dana is tearing it up," Grubich said. "She's playing outstanding."
Senior Alex Sutton was averaging 10.8 points and senior Christina Grubich, the coach's daughter, was averaging 10.5 through 10 games.
"We're very happy," said Christina Grubich, who joined Parkman on the all-tournament team at Harvest Prep. "We can always improve our defense, improve our offense and come out with a little better intensity, and come out with more fight in our hearts."