Casual observers probably would say Independence simply was overmatched when it met the Gahanna Lincoln High School girls basketball team in the first round of the Division I district tournament on Feb. 18 at Olentangy.

Casual observers probably would say Independence simply was overmatched when it met the Gahanna Lincoln High School girls basketball team in the first round of the Division I district tournament on Feb. 18 at Olentangy.

But Lions senior Phylicia Marrow believes there might have been more than just that factor which led to her team's 89-29 throttling of the 76ers.

With Gahanna coming off a regular season in which it had lost three of its previous four, coach Rick Hauser gave what amounted to a postseason pep talk prior to the game against the 76ers.

The Lions, who are the eighth seed and played Worthington Kilbourne in the second round last Wednesday, entered the tournament looking for their first district championship since 2006 and their sixth overall.

After losing in a district final to Pickerington North 45-41 in overtime in 2007, Gahanna lost in a district semifinal each of the last two seasons.

"Coach Hauser talked to us about how everybody has been contributing and how we can win a district title this year," Marrow said. "That pumped us up."

If the Lions defeated Kilbourne, they will meet fifth-seeded Northland or Newark in a district semifinal at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday at Olentangy Liberty.

Northland opened the tournament with a 64-33 victory over Central Crossing on Feb. 18 to improve to 18-3 overall.

The Vikings have a slightly different look than a year ago when they were district runners-up after losing one of the area's better post players, Destiney Gaston, to graduation.

However, Northland does have one of central Ohio's top freshmen in guard Alexis Peterson. She finished with 20 points against the Comets, was averaging 12.8 points through 21 games and combines with senior point guard Tiffany Hudson to form one of the area's top backcourts. Hudson was averaging 11.2 points before last Wednesday's game against Newark.

Other key players for Northland include junior post player Tatiana Chapple (5-11, 6 points per game), sophomore forward Symone Denham (5-9, 8 ppg) and junior wing Taren Mahone (5.8 ppg).

Northland lost to Pickerington North 60-45 on Nov. 28, but was later awarded a victory by the OHSAA because the Panthers unknowingly used an ineligible player. Gahanna lost to North 49-46 on Dec. 22 and 51-50 on Feb. 2. The Vikings also lost 46-39 on Dec. 28 to Reynoldsburg -- a team which defeated the Lions 44-34 on Jan. 8 and 46-39 on Feb. 12.

Gahanna beat Newark 58-36 on Dec. 8 and 51-44 on Jan. 22. The Wildcats improved to 9-12 with a 47-23 win over Westerville Central in their tournament opener on Feb. 18.

Newark also features a strong freshman in 6-2 post player Paige Cashin, who finished with a team-high 16 points in the win over Central. Junior guard Chelsea Steen, sophomore point guard Reed Huffman and sophomore wing Kayla Bear are other key players.

Against Independence, Marrow equaled her career high with 13 points and Tiyona Marshall had 15 points as 13 players scored.

"We actually played better in the second half (against Independence), which tells me that we were pretty focused," Hauser said. "I thought they stayed within themselves the whole time.

"We've seen Northland and we prefer to play that style of game, which is up and down. They play a good schedule."

At a glance

Below are recent results and coming schedule for the Gahanna girls basketball team:

*Feb. 10 -- Defeated Grove City 64-35. Haley Schmitt scored a season-high 26 points and Tiyona Marshall scored 16.

*Feb. 12 -- Lost to Reynoldsburg 46-39

Feb. 18 -- Def. Independence 89-29 in first round of Division I tournament at Olentangy. Marshall scored 15 points and Phylicia Marrow equaled her career high with 13 points.

Last Saturday -- Def. Watterson 34-30. Marshall scored 13 points and Schmitt scored 11.

Last Wednesday -- Played Worthington Kilbourne in second round of district tournament. The winner plays at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday at Olentangy Liberty against fifth-seeded Northland or Newark. The victor moves on to a district final at 7 p.m. on March 6 at Liberty against second-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley, Thomas Worthington, Westerville North or Westerville South. Gahanna is the eighth seed.

Of note: The Lions were 14-6 overall before last Wednesday and finished 9-5 (fourth) in the OCC-Ohio behind Pickerington North (14-0), Pickerington Central (10-4) and Reynoldsburg (10-4). Rounding out the standings were Newark (6-8), Lancaster (4-10), Groveport (2-12) and Grove City (1-13).

*OCC-Ohio game