There wasn't any finger pointing inside the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys basketball team's locker room in the days after it lost to visiting Newark 55-53 on Dec. 13 in an OCC-Ohio Division matchup between expected title contenders.
"We've been picking each other up," senior guard Corey Howard said. "Most of the time we've just been saying, 'We're going to get it.'"
Although they bounced back with a 68-55 league win Dec. 17 over visiting Reynoldsburg, the Lions believe work needs to be done if they are to reach their regular-season and postseason goals.
"You don't win or lose the league on one night," coach Tony Staib said. "You're not going to win this league going undefeated.
"We've not jelled as a team yet. We've still got a lot of work to do on both ends of the floor. We're a deep team and we're still finding our roles and who's going to get minutes here or there."
Gahanna beat Lancaster 71-39 on Dec. 20 to improve to 3-1 in the league and defeated Independence 60-53 on Dec. 21 to improve to 5-1 overall.
On Saturday, Dec. 28, the Lions will play in a doubleheader at home against Eastmoor Academy. The girls game is at 6 p.m., followed by the boys game.
The boys return to league play Jan. 3 at home against Grove City, which beat Newark 60-51 on Dec. 17.
Howard, who played a minor role off the bench a year ago when the Lions won a Division I district title, scored a season-high seven points against Reynoldsburg.
The brother of 2012 Gahanna graduate and former Lions football player Cameron Howard, Corey Howard came off the bench against the Raiders but has spent some time in the starting lineup this season.
Through five games, senior forward Javon Bess was averaging 17 points and sophomore post player Nick Ward was averaging 14.8.
The Lions made a concerted effort to get the ball down low to both players against Rey-noldsburg, according to Howard.
"We took advantage of our height," Howard said of the Lions, who got 21 points from Ward and 19 from Bess against the Raiders. "We've had some really hard practices (since losing to Newark) where we've talked about boxing out and playing solid gap defense and getting the ball inside.
"I like how we have a lot of size and we can dominate everybody. We can go 12 deep some nights and still not lose a beat."
Wrestlers prepping for Hudson duals
Visiting with a college buddy is among the things that will be on the agenda for wrestling coach Kyle Bentley when his team competes Jan. 4 in the Hudson Duals.
Bentley and Hudson coach Joe Caniglia, who wrestled for Kent State in the mid-1990s, will reunite for the six-team event in which Gahanna is expected to have five matches.
While Bentley is a Parma Heights Valley Forge graduate who had a short tenure as an assistant at Parma after he graduated from Kent State before settling in central Ohio, Caniglia is in his 18th season as Hudson's coach.
"Joe graduated the year before I did (from Kent State) and he's been asking me to come up there," Bentley said. "It'll be interesting."
Gahanna will enter the event after being off since competing Dec. 21 in the Panther Invitational at Pickerington North.
The tournament in Pickerington was the third consecutive day of matches for the Lions, who opened OCC-Ohio action Dec. 19 by losing at Pickerington Central 46-28 and defeated Watkins Memorial 32-25 on Dec. 20.
"We're going to give them four days off and have some voluntary practices to see who wants to get better," Bentley said.
On Dec. 14, Gahanna placed seventh (97) in the 13-team Hamilton Township Classic behind champion Grove City (214). Doland Martin (170 pounds) finished third and Tanner Harding (145) took second to lead the way.
Zach McDougle (132) got pinned by Hilliard Davidson's Bobby Smith, who took second at 126 at state last year, in his opening match but bounced back to finish fifth.
Nick Nader (heavyweight) did not compete at Hamilton Township because he was taking the ACT.
"I thought we did OK, but we're still not there yet," Bentley said. "We've got a lot of sophomores. We're taking steps in the right direction and Tanner Harding wrestled pretty well (at Hamilton Township). So far we're pretty much where I thought we'd be."
Girls team going through growing pains
With two freshmen and a group of inexperienced upperclassmen among its key players, the girls basketball team was 2-3 in the OCC-Ohio after beating Lancaster 52-44 on Dec. 20.
After blowing past Groveport 76-13 on Dec. 9 for its first league win, Gahanna lost to Newark 60-44 on Dec. 13 and Reynoldsburg 63-41 on Dec. 17.
The Lions, who are 5-4 overall, face defending Division II district champion Eastmoor on Saturday, Dec. 28, before returning to league play Jan. 3 at Grove City.
"I'm learning we don't come out very well," said coach Rick Hauser, whose team trailed Reynoldsburg 20-5 with 4 minutes, 34 seconds left in the second quarter. "It's just a toughness factor."
After the Lions rallied to within 30-25 with 3:16 to go in the third, the Raiders outscored them 33-16 the rest of the way.
Junior forward Yasmin Norman had 14 points and freshman point guard Samantha Jenkins added 10.
Gahanna played its first eight games without senior post player Trinity Hunter because of an academic issue. It is uncertain when she will return.
"(Jenkins) is a player and wants to be a good player, but she's got a long way to go yet," Hauser said. "As far as her skills and wanting to be a player, she has that.
"They've all got to learn better habits, things like closing out and setting screens."