Gahanna Lincoln High School girls basketball coach Rick Hauser knows how much his class of 2013 players meant to the program.
With seniors Zenobia Bess (post player), Maddison Blackwell (forward), Chrishna Butler (guard) and Quiera Lampkins (guard) leading the way, the Lions won their third Division I district championship in four seasons.
The seven-member senior class, which also included four-year regular Reyna Montgomery (guard), helped Gahanna go 74-26 the last four seasons.
The Lions lost to Olentangy Orange 63-52 in overtime in a regional semifinal March 5 at Otterbein University to finish 22-5.
"Other than if they had something going on with AAU, they were always there," Hauser said. "They had a real love to play the game. I just thought this was a great group."
Bess and Montgomery saw regular playing time as freshmen when Gahanna went 17-7 and beat Dresden Tri-Valley 45-39 in a district final.
Bess, Butler, Lampkins and Montgomery were key players as sophomores when the Lions went 17-7 and were district runners-up.
Blackwell, a Xavier University signee, joined the program last season after previously attending Hilliard Davidson and helped Gahanna go 18-7 and win a district title.
Lampkins signed with Ohio University in November and averaged 12.7 points while making first-team all-district and first-team all-league this winter. She closed her career with 910 points.
Butler was first-team all-league and third-team all-district while averaging a team-best 13.4 points. A Cleveland State signee, she finished with 811 career points.
Bess, who has signed with Illinois State, averaged 6.1 points and was honorable mention all-league. Montgomery averaged 5.2 points after returning from a knee injury that kept her out of the first 19 games.
Blackwell averaged 7.7 points and made second-team all-league.
Senior Nikki Campbell-Muriente saw action in the first 17 games before becoming ineligible. Senior Kalene Kennedy was the OCC scholar athlete.
The top player expected to return is sophomore guard Sydney Stokes, who averaged 4.8 points.
Juniors Alex Flewellen (guard), Chandlar Helms (guard), Trinity Hunter (post player) and Morgan Ross (post player) and sophomore Yasmin Norman (guard) are others eligible to return.
Gahanna finished second in the OCC-Ohio Division at 11-3, behind Reynoldsburg (14-0) and ahead of Pickerington Central and Pickerington North (9-5), Newark (6-8), Lancaster (5-9), Grove City (2-12) and Groveport (0-14).
The Lions beat Groveport (67-11 on Feb. 16), Watkins Memorial (55-33 on Feb. 20), Dublin Scioto (49-38 on Feb. 28) and Pickerington North (49-46 on March 2) to win a district title.
In the loss to Orange, Butler made a 3 to force overtime, but Gahanna was outscored 15-4 and the Pioneers made 11 of 14 free-throw attempts during the extra session.
Lampkins scored 15 points, Butler had 10 points and Bess added 10 points and 11 rebounds.
"I'm a little dumbfounded because I thought we just left shots on the floor," Hauser said. "I thought we played well the whole game but just didn't finish shots."
Wrestling team losing twins to graduation
Wrestling coach Kyle Bentley knows it will be difficult to replace what senior twins Drew McDougle and Kasee McDougle brought to the program the past four years.
"They were just great kids and great wrestlers," Bentley said.
The Lions tied Lancaster for third (5-2) in the OCC-Ohio behind co-champions Pickerington Central and Pickerington North (6-1) and ahead of Grove City (3-4), Reynoldsburg (2-5), Groveport (1-6) and Newark (0-7).
In the inaugural state team tournament, sixth-seeded Gahanna opened with a 37-31 win over third-seeded Teays Valley on Jan. 23 in Division I, Region 6-B but lost to second-seeded Pickerington Central 42-28 on Jan. 30 in the second round.
The Lions finished third (164) behind host Marysville (265.5) and Westerville North (211.5) in a 10-team sectional tournament Feb. 16.
They then placed ninth (67) behind champion Marysville (163) in the district tournament Feb. 22 and 23 at Hilliard Darby as 35 teams scored.
The McDougle brothers combined to score 23 points at state for Gahanna, which tied Ashtabula Lakeside for 20th behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (117) as 89 teams scored in the tournament held Feb. 28-March 2 at Ohio State.
Kasee was a two-time state qualifier who finished third at 132 pounds. He went 53-3 this season to break the program record for wins in a season set last year when Drew went 47-7 and was fourth at state at the same weight.
Kasee leaves the program as the all-time leader in pins with 103. Drew, who became the first wrestler from the program to reach 100 pins but battled injuries during the second half of the season, finished with 101.
Drew was a three-time state qualifier who went 35-7 this season, including 1-2 at state at 138.
Kasee won sectional and district titles and made the ThisWeek Super 12. Drew made the Super 12 last season and this winter earned runner-up finishes at sectional and district behind eventual state champion Noah Forrider of Marysville.
The Lions also lose three other seniors who advanced to district in Zach Holloway (152), David Dembroski (160) and Granyl Smith (220).
Dembroski placed third at sectional and was 0-2 at district to finish 24-21. Smith was third at the sectional, went 3-3 and placed sixth at district and went 20-12 overall. Holloway was third at sectional and 2-2 at district to finish 32-16.
Among those eligible to return are juniors Allen Bruce, Andy Chau, Nick Nader and Jordan Sprunger and freshmen Doland Martin, Zach McDougle and Carl Turner. Nader (heavyweight, 37-16 overall), Martin (170, 20-19), Sprunger (145, 11-18) and Bruce (182, 5-13) all were fourth at sectional to advance to district.
Also at sectional, Chau (195, 9-8) and Zach McDougle (120, 13-20) were fifth and Turner (126, 14-16) placed sixth.
Bentley is excited about the program's future.
"I think there's been a little fire lit with the freshman class," he said.