The Gahanna Christian Academy boys basketball team took a big step toward its first MOCAL title by completing a regular-season sweep of a longtime rival.
The Eagles defeated Tree of Life 62-58 on Jan. 16 at home, rallying from an 11-point deficit with four minutes remaining in the game.
"That was a really good game for us," coach Chris Joseph said. "That was big conference-wise. ... That was a great sign that we bounced back. We could have folded up because (Tree of Life was) playing great. The guys did not give up. It wasn't looking good."
Cliff Kelly's 3-pointer and Caleb Walker's steal and dunk ignited the comeback, and Emmanuel Dapaa's three-point play gave the Eagles the lead for good with under a minute remaining.
"Emmanuel played an outstanding game, a great floor game," Joseph said. "He did everything for us with steals and good passes."
Walker led Gahanna Christian with 17 points. Michael Ramsey scored 13 and Dapaa and Tyler Johnson each added 10.
"The players and the crowd stormed the court," Joseph said. "It was kind of fun."
Gahanna Christian, which has won four consecutive games, won at Tree of Life 53-41 on Dec. 13.
The Eagles are 10-4 overall and 5-0 in the league, with a two-game lead over second-place Tree of Life (3-2). Granville Christian is third at 2-2.
"We're up two games, so if we can take care of business we'll be OK," Joseph said. "We definitely have the advantage now coming down the stretch."
Gahanna Christian has three league games remaining: Jan. 30 at Madison Christian and home contests Feb. 7 against Granville Christian and Feb. 13 against Delaware Christian.
Between their second win over Tree of Life and the Madison Christian game, the Eagles will play only once during that two weeks: Tuesday, Jan. 28, at Danville.
"Unfortunately, we're off for a while because we're playing pretty well, but we've been playing so many games it's hard to really get some good practice time," Joseph said.
In addition to beating Tree of Life, the Eagles' winning streak includes league wins over Madison Christian (54-27 on Jan. 10) and Granville Christian (47-38 on Jan. 14) and a 72-36 victory over Mount Vernon Academy on Jan. 13.
"Winning a league title would be huge," said Walker, who averages a team-best 14.3 points. "We still have three conference games left, but Tree (of Life) was a big one that we were concerned about winning. We knew we had to win to get the lead. That built our confidence even more and now we're motivated to go out and win."
Joseph called the move of defending MOCAL champion Fairfield Christian to the MSL-Cardinal Division a key to his team's run for a title.
Last season, Fairfield Christian went 12-0 in the league to finish ahead of second-place Gahanna Christian (9-3).
Fairfield Christian also defeated the visiting Eagles 55-38 on Dec. 3.
The Eagles also are preparing for the Division IV district tournament, which begins Feb. 21.
"We're getting ready," Joseph said. "The tournament is going to be tough. To win a district (title) would be tough. There are several good teams. The top four teams are going to be tough to beat -- Fairfield Christian, Africentric, Harvest Prep and Newark Catholic."