Since taking over as coach at Gahanna Lincoln High School a year ago, J.J. Stallsworth has noticed that the top teams in the Red and White divisions of the Capital Hockey Conference make a habit of taking advantage of their opportunities.
His team has continued to improve in that area, which has the Lions on the brink of earning the Blue Division's only berth in the Blue Jackets Cup.
Gahanna gained a cushion toward that by defeating Watterson 4-3 in overtime Jan. 26 at Chiller Easton and beating Dublin Scioto 6-2 on Jan. 27 at Chiller Dublin.
The Lions also were scheduled to play Worthington Kilbourne on Jan. 25, but the game was postponed because of bad weather.
Gahanna leads the Blue Division at 7-4-0-2 (16 points) and Kilbourne is second at 7-6 (14).
"We play Thomas Worthington on (Friday, Feb. 2) and that's senior night, so it would be a good one to win," Stallsworth said of the Cardinals, who are 4-9-1 in the CHC for a White Division-low nine points.
"What we've seen the past couple years is that the upper teams bear down and score on every chance they get. It's mostly about being more experienced and being ready for the tough games. We've learned a lot in every game and we've played well against some of the good teams."
Sophomore forward Skyy Goebel scored three goals, including the winner in overtime, against Watterson on Jan. 26. The Lions also beat Watterson 6-3 on Jan. 12.
Gahanna, which beat Scioto 9-1 on Dec. 29, got two goals apiece from senior forward Kyle Sloan and junior forward Evan Kraus on the way to earning the season sweep of the Irish on Jan. 27.
Last season, Gahanna competed in the Blue Jackets Cup consolation tournament.
"We're playing pretty solid," Goebel said. "We didn't play Kilbourne (on Jan. 25) so (the Watterson and Scioto games) were a must.
"We're moving the puck well and getting a lot of shots. That puts pressure on the other team."
Girls basketball team not resting on laurels
The girls basketball team was on a 10-game winning streak and was 15-2 overall before playing Reynoldsburg on Jan. 29.
The Lions' last loss heading into the Reynoldsburg rematch came Dec. 18 when they fell to the Raiders 54-44.
Gahanna outscored its next 10 opponents by an average of 52.5-33.6.
Still, coach Rick Hauser believes there is work to be done if his team is to contend for a second consecutive Division I district championship.
"The big thing is that we don't want to become one of those teams with so much talent that we do a lot of one-on-one stuff," Hauser said. "We need to keep doing those little things like setting screens and running decoy cuts at the right time. I want us to continue to get better about our defense and put up more points. I don't think we've run away from people like we should."
Senior guard Quiera Lampkins was averaging a team-best 14 points through 17 games and also averages five rebounds, five assists and three steals, according to Hauser.
Senior guard Chrishna Butler has been shooting better than 50 percent from the floor.
Senior post player Zenobia Bess had 11 points and 13 rebounds in a 52-36 win over Canton McKinley on Jan. 19 in the Classic in the Country at Berlin Hiland.
After being out with a knee injury, senior guard Reyna Montgomery was expected to see her first action this season Jan. 25 against Newark, but the game was postponed. It has been rescheduled for Thursday, Jan. 31.
Wrestling team wins state opener
In the first round of the inaugural Division I state dual tournament, the sixth-seeded wrestling team defeated third-seeded Teays Valley 37-31 on Jan. 23 at Pickerington Central.
Winning matches were Kasee McDougle (132 pounds), Drew McDougle (138), Zach Holloway (152), David Demboski (160), Dolan Martin (170), Granyl Smith (220) and Nick Nader (heavyweight).
Gahanna advanced to face second-seeded Pickerington Central in a second-round Region 6-B match Jan. 30. The winner faced top-seeded Mount Vernon or fifth-seeded Pickerington North in a regional semifinal 20 minutes after the end of second-round action, with the winner advancing to a regional final Wednesday, Feb. 6, at a site to be announced.
Swimming squads compete in OCC meet
The girls swimming and diving team settled for second in the OCC-Ohio Division meet Jan. 26 at New Albany.
The Lions scored 297.5 points to place behind Pickerington North (306) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (205), Pickerington Central (175), Lancaster (129), Grove City (107.5) and Newark (30).
Winning league titles for the girls were Morgan Belli in the 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, 11.7 seconds), Kirstyn Thomas in the 50 freestyle (26.08), Regan Nolan in the 500 free (5:45.91), Maddie Rapp in diving (342.1 points) and the 400 free relay of Belli, Annie Devaney, Nolan and Thomas (3:52.33).
Last season, the girls won the league title with 241 points as Pickerington North came in second (238.5).
The boys team placed fourth (186) behind Pickerington North (349), Lancaster (197) and Grove City (187) and ahead of Pickerington Central (169), Reynoldsburg (75) and Newark (48). The boys were second in the league a year ago.
The teams next compete Feb. 9 in a Division I sectional at Thomas.