First-year Gahanna Christian Academy boys basketball coach Chris Joseph said his team not only learned valuable lessons on the court, but also off the court this season.
The sixth-seeded Eagles finished 16-8 overall, losing to fourth-seeded Danville 59-47 in a Division IV district semifinal March 4 at Reynoldsburg.
"It was a really good year," Joseph said. "We work on more than just basketball. We work on personal character, interact with each other, spiritual growth, all that happened."
The Blue Devils led by as many as 11 points in the first half before Gahanna Christian rallied to take its only lead at 28-27 on senior guard Caleb McLaughlin's 3-pointer with 5 minutes, 45 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Danville, however, went on an 8-0 run on its way to a 42-30 lead entering the fourth.
The closest the Eagles would get after that was 52-44 with a minute remaining.
"They haven't been in this situation, so it was good for them to get the nerves out. (They) made a nice run (in the second half)," Joseph said. "I thought we came out well in the third quarter. I thought we outplayed them in every category except shooting, making shots. That's been our thing all year."
McLaughlin led Gahanna Christian with 21 points and senior guard Anthony Hebron scored 10.
Joseph earned his first district tournament win with a 62-44 home victory over eighth-seeded Shekinah Christian in the second round Feb. 27.
"It was nice," Joseph said. "We played really well. We had a lot of defensive pressure and it worked, so that was good."
Junior guard Caleb Walker scored 15 points, Hebron had 13 and McLaughlin had 12.
The Eagles had a first-round bye.
Hebron led the team in scoring at 13 points per game. He was first-team all-MOCAL and third-team all-district.
Walker, who averaged 11.8 points, was second-team all-MOCAL and honorable mention all-district. Freshman guard Emmanuel Dapaa (8.1) and McLaughlin (8.0) were honorable mention all-league.
Other players who could return are junior Connor Dyckes (guard), sophomores Anthony Barnes (guard), Isaiah Clark (guard), Michael Ramsey (post player) and Sam Sibert (guard) and freshman Tyler Johnson (guard).
Gahanna Christian finished second in the MOCAL at 9-3, behind Fairfield Christian (12-0) and ahead of Tree of Life (8-4), Delaware Christian (5-7), Granville Christian (4-8), Grove City Christian (4-8) and Madison Christian (0-12).
Girls team loses to Newark Catholic
The fourth-seeded girls team lost to top-seeded Newark Catholic 52-40 in a Division IV district semifinal Feb. 28 at Lakewood to finish 21-4.
The game was tied at 21 at halftime. Newark Catholic outscored the Eagles 31-19 in the second half.
"We were really pleased with the way we played" coach John Grubich said. "It was clearly our best game of the year. We say we never lost the game, we just ran out of time. If they gave us a few more minutes, we would pull it out. That's how we look at it. They played their hardest and greatest, and I'm extremely proud of them."
Senior guard Christina Grubich scored 15 points and sophomore guard Dana Parkman scored 14.
After a first-round bye, Gahanna Christian defeated 10th-seeded Delaware Christian 64-53 in the second round and seventh-seeded Berne Union 47-34 in the third round.
The Eagles won the program's first league title at 10-2, finishing ahead of Granville Christian (9-3), Tree of Life (8-4), Delaware Christian (7-5), Fairfield Christian (6-6), Madison Christian (2-10) and Grove City Christian (0-12).
Christina Grubich, one of six seniors on the team, and Parkman were first-team all-MOCAL.
Parkman averaged 19.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 steals, and Grubich averaged 10.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.4 steals.
Sophomore guard Alex Grubich, who led the team in assists at 5.2 per game, was second-team all-league. Seniors Alex Sutton, who averaged 9.2 points and 11.3 rebounds, and Hope Leimbach were honorable mention all-league.
Parkman was first-team all-district, Christina Grubich was third-team all-district and Sutton and Alex Grubich were honorable mention all-district.
John Grubich, the father of Christina and Alex, was named district Coach of the Year.
Other players who could return are junior Jalyn Meade (forward), sophomores Cassie Miller (guard) and Bailey Moore (post player) and freshmen Makhija Minneyfield (guard) and Maya Price (guard)
"I think we'll be fine," coach Grubich said. "You can't replace the seniors from this year, but we're really excited."