During the final four minutes of the third quarter in a Division I regional final March 16, the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys basketball team struggled to run an efficient offense as Northland turned a four-point deficit into a nine-point lead.
It might have been the only significant portion of a game this season in which the Lions had their entire lineup but an opponent overwhelmed them.
Gahanna, which lost to the top-ranked Vikings 62-53 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum to finish 22-6 overall, was 18-1 when senior guards Aaron Jackson and Troy Mundy, junior guard Manny Powell and junior forward Javon Bess were in uniform together.
"We stuck together this year when everybody was getting into trouble," Bess said, referring to player disciplinary issues. "When we had everybody on our roster together, we didn't lose. We just didn't play in the second half (against Northland)."
Northland, which improved to 28-0 and advanced to its third state tournament in five seasons, trailed Gahanna 13-12 after one quarter and 27-23 at halftime.
The Lions led 35-31 with 4 minutes, 5 seconds left in the third quarter, but Northland scored the next 13 points and led 44-37 heading into the fourth.
Gahanna was within 46-42 with 4:22 remaining but didn't make another basket until Bess completed a three-point play with 59.6 seconds to go.
Bess, who finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds, had 11 fourth-quarter points.
"The third quarter was our demise," coach Tony Staib said. "We just had some costly turnovers. Our offense became sort of stagnant and I think offensively we panicked. We sort of got rattled by their pressure. Most of our turnovers were really in the half-court."
The Lions were the ninth seed for the district tournament and opened the postseason with wins over 38th-seeded Teays Valley (66-49 on Feb. 23), 21st-seeded Olentangy (79-68 in overtime Feb. 28) and eighth-seeded Reynoldsburg (42-38 on March 6) before beating 13th-seeded Newark 64-54 on March 9 in a district final at the Fairgrounds.
Gahanna then edged 2012 state champion Pickerington Central 53-50 on March 14 in a regional semifinal at the Fairgrounds. Central junior forward Jae'Sean Tate had 31 points, but the Lions made seven of 10 free throws during the final two minutes.
Bess had 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Jackson had 18 points and five rebounds.
"Tate's a great player and we had to make sure that no one else got theirs," senior guard Ronnie Stokes Jr. said.
Gahanna loses four seniors, including Jackson, Mundy and Stokes.
Jackson, a University of Akron signee, averaged 13.4 points and scored the second-most points for the Lions despite missing eight regular-season games. Stokes averaged 8.2 points and was second-team all-OCC-Ohio Division, and Mundy averaged 7.6 and was honorable mention all-league while missing three games.
Bess, who made first-team all-league and second-team all-district, averaged 18.1 points in his first season with the program. He played for Pickerington Central during his first two prep seasons.
Powell averaged 8.6 points while missing five games.
Also eligible to return are junior post player Keith Scowden (4.1 points), freshman post player Nick Ward (3.6 points), junior guards Corey Howard and Jimmer Ryan and freshman guard Chad Barrick.
Bess and Powell did not play Dec. 18 when Gahanna lost to Reynoldsburg 40-38. Jackson missed five games in January and three in February; the Lions went 4-4 in those games.
Gahanna finished fifth (9-5) in the league behind champions Grove City, Newark, Pickerington Central and Reynoldsburg, all of which went 10-4. Pickerington North (4-10), Groveport (2-12) and Lancaster (1-13) rounded out the standings.
"We've been to the regional in three of the last four years, and the Central District is just so difficult," Staib said. "We're very proud of this group to keep the tradition going and we look forward to great things in the future."
"I just feel like we've got to work for next year and have just got to get better," Bess said.