Gahanna Christian Academy boys basketball coach Chris Joseph has been impressed with his team's resiliency.
After opening with a 54-48 win Dec. 2 at Northside Christian, the Eagles lost at Fairfield Christian 55-38 on Dec. 3 and at Central Crossing 63-29 on Dec. 7, leaving Joseph wondering about their potential.
But Gahanna Christian responded with three wins, defeating host Delaware Christian 67-28 in its MOCAL opener Dec. 9, visiting Patriot Prep 71-50 on Dec. 10 and host Tree of Life 53-41 on Dec. 13.
"We played really well (recently)," Joseph said. "We're coming together as a team. It takes awhile, but if we play together we could be good. They're learning they can't do it individually. They have to do it together."
The Eagles were 4-2 overall before playing Wellington on Dec. 17. They are 2-0 in the MOCAL.
Joseph expects Tree of Life to be the team to beat in the five-team MOCAL, which also includes Delaware Christian, Granville Christian and Madison Christian.
Grove City Christian and Fairfield Christian left to join the MSL.
"We should contend for a league title," Joseph said. "There are only five teams in the MOCAL this year, but it's still going to be tough to win the league. The bigger goal is try to win a district (title). If we can put it together and make a run and at least try to get in a district final, that's a goal."
The top returnee is 6-foot-3 senior forward Caleb Walker, who last season averaged 11.8 points and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district in Division IV. Sophomore point guard Emmanuel Dapaa (5-9) averaged 8.1 points and was honorable mention all-league.
Other returnees are seniors Connor Dyckes (5-8, guard) and Malik Johnson (6-0, guard), juniors Anthony Barnes (5-9, guard), Isaiah Clark (6-0, guard) and Michael Ramsey (6-4, forward) and sophomore Tyler Johnson (5-9, guard).
Senior Jared Downing (6-1, forward) has returned after playing as a freshman and sophomore but sitting out last season.
Sophomore Clifford Kelley (6-2, forward) rounds out the team.
Against Northside Christian, Ramsey scored 19 points and Walker added 10.
Walker scored 18 points against Fairfield Christian and 11 against Central Crossing.
"It was not good, but it was a good wake-up game for us," Joseph said of the game against Central Crossing, which competes in Division I.
Against Delaware Christian, Walker scored 20 points, Dapaa had 15 and Dyckes had 10.
In the Eagles' home opener against Patriot Prep, Walker scored 18 points, Ramsey had 16, Dapaa scored 13 and Johnson added 10.
Dapaa scored 21 points against Tree of Life and Walker added 11.
The Eagles lost a three-member 2013 senior class led by Anthony Hebron, who averaged a team-best 13.0 points and was first-team all-league and third-team all-district. Another graduate, Caleb McLaughlin, averaged 8.0 points was honorable mention all-league.
Gahanna Christian took second (9-3) in the MOCAL last season behind Fairfield Christian (12-0) and finished 16-8 overall with a 59-47 loss to Danville in a district semifinal.
Girls basketball season canceled
The girls basketball season has been canceled at the varsity and junior varsity levels because of a lack of players.
Athletics director Robert Balawajder said that only five girls had committed to playing.
There is a middle school team, and Balawajder expects teams to be reinstated at the high school next season.
"Everyone was disappointed," he said. "We had some great players returning that we wanted to see on the court, but there just weren't enough numbers. You don't want to hurt other schools and put them in an awkward position if something bad happens if somebody gets sick or hurt. It was a very difficult decision to make."
Junior guards Alex Grubich and Dana Parkman have joined the j.v. boys team, and Balawajder said Parkman has been the starting point guard.
Last season, Parkman averaged 19.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 steals and was first-team all-league and all-district. Grubich was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
The Eagles finished 21-4 overall, losing to Newark Catholic 52-40 in a district semifinal. They also won the program's first MOCAL title, going 10-2 to finish ahead of runner-up Granville Christian (9-3).
Coach John Grubich, Alex's father, was named district Coach of the Year.