The Gahanna Lincoln High School girls basketball team was forced to thrust numerous inexperienced players into key roles this winter.
One such player who fits that description despite being a senior is Trinity Hunter, who couldn't have been happier to simply get onto the court after getting a late start to her season.
On Dec. 28, the 6-foot-2 forward played in her first game after missing the first nine because of a schoolwork issue.
"To be honest it was the greatest feeling just to be back because I felt like I let my team down," Hunter said. "I was able to bring myself out and contribute to my team again."
Coach Rick Hauser expected Hunter would make a significant impact.
She had eight points in a 40-35 win over Eastmoor Academy in her first game and then scored 17 second-half points and 20 overall in a 49-46 win over Grove City on Jan. 3.
In a 46-37 win over Pickerington Central on Jan. 10 that avenged a 51-42 loss to the Tigers on Nov. 29, Hunter scored a team-high 13 points.
The win over Central was the Lions' fourth in a row since losing 63-41 on Dec. 17 at Reynoldsburg.
Gahanna is 9-4 overall and 5-3 in the OCC-Ohio Division after defeating Pickerington North 47-42 in overtime Jan. 13.
"We can run plays," Hunter said. "I see my team growing because we've been working on being a team."
As a freshman at Gahanna Christian, Hunter made honorable mention all-MOCAL.
She then transferred to Gahanna during the middle of her sophomore season.
Last winter, the Lions were led by five Division I college recruits and Hunter saw little playing time.
Her talent, though, wasn't lost on Hauser.
In addition to Hunter, the Lions have gotten contributions of late from junior Ana Hoosier, who has been seeing time at point guard along with freshman Sam Jenkins after battling an ankle injury in December.
"It's been nice having (Hoosier) back because she is a point (guard), and when you can take a post player who is a Division I athlete (like Hunter), it does make a difference," Hauser said. "Trinity's a very athletic kid. She can guard a guard and she can also guard a big. She can shoot it from 15 to 16 feet. She just needs to learn ways to fit in with everybody.
"(Hunter) was 3-for-3 from the free-throw line in the first half (against Grove City), but she came out in the second half and looked like the best player on the court."
Hunter recently was nominated for the McDonald's All-American game to be held April 2 in Chicago.
Despite having well-rounded skills, Hunter believes her biggest role is being a facilitator with her words.
"I like to communicate," she said. "There has to be communication or I can't function. That's my main role besides scoring and being in the post."
Hockey team hangs tough in league
Now competing in the White Division of the Capital Hockey Conference after winning the Blue Division a year ago, the hockey team has gone 3-1 against teams from the Blue and 2-3 against teams in the Red Division.
Also in the White are Upper Arlington, St. Charles and DeSales. Gahanna beat DeSales 4-2 on Jan. 3 in its first game against a division opponent.
The Lions, who then lost to UA 4-2 on Jan. 10 and to DeSales 6-2 on Jan. 11, play their other White Division games Jan. 25 against Upper Arlington at Chiller Easton, Jan. 26 against St. Charles at Chiller Easton and Jan. 31 against St. Charles at OhioHealth Ice Haus.
Gahanna defeated Blue Division-foe Olentangy 6-2 on Jan. 12 to improve to 13-6-1 overall.
St. Charles leads the White with 18 points, followed by UA (17), Gahanna (12) and DeSales (10).
The top finisher in the White moves to the Red next year.
"We've been very happy," coach J.J. Stallsworth said. "We went 2-3 against the Red Division, which is awesome because they're in the division ahead of us. St. Charles is (ranked) third in the state and they're in the White Division."
Among Gahanna's standouts, according to Stallsworth, have been the line that features senior Mason Settle, sophomore Jake Chobany and freshman Jared Chobany.
All three players are among the team's top five in points, Stallsworth said.
The line that features junior Skyy Goebel, senior Evan Kraus and sophomore Zach Chapman also has been strong.
"Defensively, we're getting better," Stallsworth said. "We've just got to keep doing what we're doing. (DeSales and UA were) two big ones for us if we want to win our division."
Wrestling coach happy with progress
After competing in the Panther Invitational on Dec. 21 at Pickerington North, the wrestling team didn't compete again until Jan. 4 when it participated in the Hudson Duals.
Although the Lions went just 1-4 at Hudson, the benefits of having a few extra days off were noticed by coach Kyle Bentley.
On Jan. 9, the Lions beat Groveport 45-32 and Rey-noldsburg 54-22 in OCC-Ohio duals at home to improve to 2-1 in the league. They lost to Pickerington Central 46-28 on Dec. 19.
"It was good to get a little rest early," Bentley said. "(At Hudson) we didn't really wrestle great, but we only wrestled varsity guys and gave up 24 points in every match. We've been working on some things in the weight room."
Nick Nader (heavyweight), Andy Chau (182 pounds), Doland Martin (170), Jordan Sprunger (160), Tanner Harding (145), Carl Turner (138) and Zach McDougle (132) all won both of their matches Jan. 9.
The Lions travel to Pickerington North on Thursday, Jan. 16, to compete in league duals against Lancaster and Newark and then play host to the Lion Duals on Saturday, Jan. 18. Also expected to compete are Big Walnut, Dublin Jerome, Granville, Hilliard Bradley, Licking Valley, Reynoldsburg and Westerville South.
The Lions went 4-1 but finished second behind Bradley in the Lion Duals last season.
"(Nader) has been wrestling really well," Bentley said. "Jordan and David (Dembroski at 152) both looked good (Jan. 9) and Doland wrestled well. We've got a lot of young talent."