Rocky Fork Enterprise

Boys Basketball

Tourney opener inspires Lions

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The Gahanna Lincoln High School boys basketball team hopes its first-round Division I district tournament game served as a wake-up call to another successful postseason.

Winners of three district championships in four seasons, the Lions entered the tournament as the second seed.

That's why they thought their 55-45 win over 42nd-seeded Dublin Scioto on Feb. 21 was cause for alarm.

Gahanna's performance was much closer to what it expected in an 86-40 win over 39th-seeded Logan on Feb. 25. That advanced the Lions into at least a district semifinal for the sixth consecutive season.

"We felt with our first-round game with Dublin Scioto that we didn't execute as well as we could have offensively and defensively," coach Tony Staib said. "We lost a 24-point lead and they ended up cutting it to seven. It was nice to get a big lead and keep it (against Logan)."

Gahanna was 21-3 before playing 27th-seeded St. Charles in a district semifinal March 4.

The winner plays third-seeded Upper Arlington or 12th-seeded Grove City in a district final Saturday, March 8, at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.

UA was 22-1 and Grove City was 17-6 entering their district semifinal March 5.

The district champion faces Zanesville, Westerville South, Pickerington Central or Marysville in a regional semifinal March 13 at the Fairgrounds. The regional final is March 15 at the same site.

"We just started guarding (against Logan)," senior guard Corey Howard said. "We started taking defense more seriously the second game. Even the reserves we brought up played a lot."

Howard and classmates Javon Bess and Manny Powell played their final home game against Logan. Keith Scowden, who was expected to be a key player but hasn't played this season because of injury, was the other senior in the program.

Bess scored 24 points, Powell had 12, Matt Moyer had 11 and Jenisys Battle scored 10. Howard had five points as 10 players scored.

"Our depth sort of wore them down," Staib said. "First of all, it was our last home game for our seniors and we wanted to make sure our last home game was a quality win, and I felt like we did that and we did it for four quarters."

While Bess entered Gahanna's district semifinal averaging 22 points and recently was named district Player of the Year, UA has one of central Ohio's top talents in senior guard Kevin Vannatta, a North Carolina-Asheville signee who averages 18 points and six rebounds.

The Golden Bears' only loss entering their district semifinal came Dec. 13 to Olentangy Liberty (34-31). They beat Olentangy 67-53 in a second-round tournament game Feb. 26 as Vannatta scored 19 points and senior guard Danny Hummer had 17.

Gahanna beat Grove City 79-52 on Jan. 3 and 74-57 on Feb. 4. Bess had 27 points in the first matchup and Powell led with 19 in the rematch.

The Greyhounds are led by junior guard Nick Bapst (21 points per game). He scored 28 points in the second matchup against Gahanna.

"It means a lot (to be in a district semifinal)," Howard said. "We're trying to not only win district, but get the ring for state. Coach just keeps pushing us in practice so that we don't take anyone lightly."

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