The Gahanna Lincoln High School boys basketball team has played a variety of roles this season, including OCC-Ohio Division title contender, a squad forced to overcome adversity and spoiler.
Now that the Lions' roller coaster of a regular season is behind them, they aspire to a new position -- one they hope will include a district championship.
Gahanna, which is seeded ninth of 42 teams in the Division I district tournament, opens the postseason at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at home against 38th-seeded Teays Valley.
"With us having our full roster back, there's a level of confidence with our players," coach Tony Staib said. "We need to make up for lost time. I've been very pleased with their focus for the stretch run. This group wants to prove how good they are."
Gahanna was 16-5 overall before closing the regular season Feb. 19 at Delaware.
After a 3-4 stretch from Jan. 4 through Feb. 5 that knocked them out of the league title race, the Lions closed the OCC-Ohio schedule with wins over Pickerington North (65-47 on Feb. 8), Newark (68-51 on Feb. 12) and Pickerington Central (72-62 on Feb. 15).
The wins over Newark and Pickerington Central helped force a four-way tie for the championship at 10-4 between those two teams, Grove City and Reynoldsburg. Gahanna followed at 9-5 and Pickerington North (4-10), Groveport (2-12) and Lancaster (1-13) rounded out the standings.
Senior guard Aaron Jackson, who was unavailable to play in eight of Gahanna's first 21 regular-season games, had 20 points against Pickerington Central. The Tigers entered that game in sole possession of first in the OCC-Ohio.
If Gahanna beats Teays Valley, it would play host to 21st-seeded Olentangy or 22nd-seeded Upper Arlington in a second-round game at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27. The winner moves on to a district semifinal at 8 p.m. March 6 at Westerville Central against eighth-seeded Reynoldsburg, 26th-seeded Worthington Kilbourne or 37th-seeded Whetstone.
"It's a long season and you gain valuable experience through that," Staib said. "We dug ourselves a hole in the league this year, so we're trying to put it all together for the tournament."
Nine wrestlers advance to district tourney
The wrestling team will have nine competitors in the Division I district tournament Friday, Feb. 22, and Saturday, Feb. 23, at Hilliard Darby.
Entering after winning a sectional championship Feb. 16 at Marysville is senior Kasee McDougle, who went 4-0 at 132 pounds.
Earning a runner-up finish was Drew McDougle, who lost to Marysville's Noah Forrider 20-9 in the championship at 138.
The Lions placed third (164) of 10 teams behind Marysville (265.5) and Westerville North (203.5).
"It was the most we've gotten (to district) since I've been here," said Kyle Bentley, who is in his seventh season as coach. "The guys did well. They wrestled tough. We won some key matches early in the tournament."
The other district qualifiers are seniors David Dembroski (160, third, 3-1), Zach Holloway (152, third, 3-1) and Granyl Smith (220, third, 3-1), juniors Allen Bruce (182, fourth, 1-2), Nick Nader (heavyweight, fourth, 3-2) and Jordan Sprunger (145, fourth, 2-2) and freshman Doland Martin (170, fourth, 2-2).
The top four finishers in each weight class at district advance to the state tournament Feb. 28 through March 2 at Ohio State.
Last season, Drew McDougle was fourth at state at 132 and Kasee McDougle went 0-2 at 138.
Drew McDougle recorded his 101st career pin during his sectional semifinal win over Northland's Anthony Alexander in 3 minutes, 22 seconds.
Also competing at sectional but failing to advance were junior Andy Chau (195, fifth, 2-2) and freshmen Zach McDougle (120, fifth, 2-2) and Carl Turner (126, sixth, 0-3).
"Probably Jordan Sprunger and David Dembroski (were surprises)," Bentley said. "David came out of a pretty tough (weight) to get out."
At district, Kasee McDougle (44-2 overall) will open against Dublin Coffman's Adnan Mohamud (14-19) and Drew McDougle (31-4) will open against Westland's Devyn Van Handel (21-17). The other first-round matches for Gahanna are Sprunger (11-16) against Upper Arlington's Vito DiBenedetto (34-8), Holloway (30-14) against Pickerington North's Nick Notestine (17-8), Dembroski (24-19) against Pickerington Central's A.J. Bondurant (37-8), Martin (20-17) against UA's Blake Reid (22-0), Bruce (5-11) against Olentangy's Nate Hall (37-8), Smith (17-9) against Hilliard Davidson's Quentin Wolfe (6-5) and Nader (37-14) against Teays Valley's Brandyn Darnell (11-3).
Girls basketball team wins tourney opener
The girls basketball team advanced to the second round of the Division I district tournament with a 67-11 win over Groveport on Feb. 16.
The second-seeded Lions played host to 41st-seeded Watkins Memorial in a second-round game Feb. 20. The winner will meet 12th-seeded Dublin Scioto or 18th-seeded Central Crossing in a district semifinal at 6 p.m. Feb. 28 at Jonathan Alder. The district final is 6 p.m. March 2 at the same site.
Gahanna improved to 19-4 by beating Groveport. The Lions led 41-9 by halftime and held the Cruisers scoreless in the third quarter.
Senior guard Chrishna Butler scored 15 points and senior post player Zenobia Bess had 10 for the Lions, who also beat Groveport 57-31 on Dec. 7 and 68-31 on Jan. 18 in OCC-Ohio play.
Girls bowlers advance to district tourney
The girls bowling team will compete in the district tournament Saturday, Feb. 23, at HP Lanes, where the top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to the state tournament March 1 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
The Lions placed third (3,227) behind Briggs (3,757) and Cardington (3,584) in a 25-team sectional Feb. 15 at Columbus Western Bowl.
Senior Morgan Wiles was eighth (519), followed by sophomore Samantha Toale (15th, 479), senior Kelsey Ferguson (30th, 444), junior Erika Reed (32nd, 437), junior Mickayla Moyer (100th, 289) and senior Amanda Paez (138th, 131).
The boys placed 22nd (3,108) behind champion Newark (4,030) in a 30-team sectional Feb. 16 at Columbus Western Bowl as the top nine teams and top nine individuals advanced to district.
Competing but failing to advance were seniors Shane Walker (41st, 513) and Collin Price (tied for 47th, 506), sophomores Alex Kasson (55th, 494) and Conner Hammonds (88th, 429), freshman Jason McCann (139th, 245) and senior Michael Chau (160th, 123).
Hockey team falls in second round
The 12th-seeded hockey team opened the district tournament with a 7-3 win over 21st-seeded Watterson on Feb. 16 at the OhioHealth Ice Haus but lost to second-seeded Olentangy Orange 3-0 in a second-round game Feb. 17 at the same site.
It marked the seventh consecutive season the Lions lost in the second round of the tournament. They finished 15-15-3-2.
"(Orange) probably had about six to eight first-place votes (to be the top seed for the district tournament) and I thought we played well," coach J.J. Stallsworth said. "They just scored on their chances. We hit a couple posts and missed the net a couple times."
Against Watterson, senior forward Austin Hays and sophomore forward Zach Chapman both scored two goals. Senior goaltender Tyler Klopfer had 12 saves.