Junior Aaron Jackson believes the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys basketball team is a "huge target" after winning OCC-Ohio Division titles the past two seasons.

Junior Aaron Jackson believes the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys basketball team is a "huge target" after winning OCC-Ohio Division titles the past two seasons.

The 6-foot-6 guard/forward knows what that feels like from an individual perspective as well, considering how much attention he's been receiving as one of the Lions' go-to players this winter.

Those dynamics have kept the pressure on him and his teammates during a season in which the hope of winning another league title likely is gone.

Despite that fact, Jackson knows there's plenty to be gained over the coming weeks individually and team-wise.

"It still feels like it's the beginning of the season and that we haven't climaxed to the best part of the season yet, which is the tournament," he said. "I'm still going to get more comfortable, and I haven't really played my best basketball games yet."

Jackson, the team's tallest player, has had enough moments of success to provide the Lions with optimism as they head into the final three weeks of the regular season.

Through 13 games, he was averaging 13.7 points and had been in double figures in all but three games. He made three 3-pointers and finished with 25 points in a 63-55 win over Columbus East on Dec. 17 and led the Lions with 24 points in a 76-56 victory over Delaware on Jan. 14.

On the flip side, Jackson struggled in both of Gahanna's losses to Newark. He was held to six points in a 44-40 road loss on Dec. 6 and was one of several Lions to battle foul trouble in a 67-61 home loss to the Wildcats on Jan. 20.

During the rematch, Jackson didn't score in the fourth quarter and finished with 10 points and four rebounds and went 4-for-7 from the free-throw line.

"Teams are going to come after Aaron, and he's starting to do a better job of handling it and our team's doing a better job of handling it," coach Tony Staib said. "He's talented enough to put up a big number, and that's when teams really try to key on him."

Jackson, who also plays for an Ohio Varsity 16U White team that placed third in the AAU national tournament a year ago, has caught the eye of college recruiters.

There are several aspects of his game that he is working on.

"I'm just looking to get my teammates more involved, and I still need to create chances for myself and have better shot selection," Jackson said.

Shot selection was among the Lions' downfalls during their most recent loss to Newark.

In the fourth quarter, Ronnie Stokes, Aaron Roberson, Austin Rutherford, Isaiah Israel and Jackson all missed 3-pointers.

Also complicating matters was that during the first half the Lions were called for 24 fouls and Israel, Jackson and Rutherford all had extended stays on the bench with foul trouble.

Among the positives was that Israel, who transferred from Independence during the offseason, scored a season-high 17 points.

Israel turned a steal into a layup to cut the deficit to 63-61 with 38.6 seconds left. Newark, however, responded with a layup following a full-court pass to seal the victory.

"I was proud of our bench because there were a lot of fouls called and we had three out of our five starters on the bench in the first half," Staib said. "You've just got to be sharp on both ends of the floor. Our shot selection wasn't the greatest during crunch time and we weren't always strong enough on defense."

•The girls team bounced back from a 58-52 loss to Solon on Jan. 15 by beating host Newark 48-35 on Jan. 20. That gave the Lions a season sweep of the Wildcats, who they needed overtime to beat 46-41 on Dec. 6 on their home floor.

A 19-point second quarter helped Gahanna pull away early during the rematch, as Chrishna Butler had 13 points.

"I just think we weren't ready to play for the Solon game," senior Te-Asia Smith said. "I've been really happy with our defense. We're all working together when somebody goes in to trap."

Smith has been a key contributor defensively for a team that held 10 of its first 15 opponents to fewer than 40 points.

A 5-0 guard who saw limited time on varsity a year ago, she had a career-high 15 points in a 54-32 victory over Groveport on Jan. 13.

Smith missed a 85-41 victory over the Cruisers on Dec. 2 because of a concussion that sidelined her for three full games and part of another.

"My role has been my defense," she said. "The offense is slowing coming to me. Defense is the place I can really help."