Things rarely felt easy for the Gahanna Lincoln High School girls bowling team during the Division I district tournament March 3 at Sawmill Lanes.

With the top four teams advancing to state from the 20-team event, the Lions were fifth heading into the baker games when they finally hit their stride.

Gahanna rolled a 227 during its fifth of six baker games to all but wrap up a state berth, as they finished with a 3,611 and placed fourth behind champion Briggs (3,888). Whitehall (3,811) and Delaware (3,740) also advanced, and Lancaster (3,530) was fifth.

"It was a hard day," coach Kelly Ferguson said. "We just weren't hitting our spares and there were tough lanes. We were in fifth until about the fifth baker game."

It marks the third time qualifying for state for the Lions, who will compete Friday, March 10, at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl. The top eight teams during the qualifying round advance to the championship round.

Gahanna finished 16th in 2012 but placed eighth in the qualifying round last year to advance to the championship bracket, where it lost to Beavercreek 3-0 and finished eighth overall.

All five of the Lions who scored during the qualifying round last season, including senior Breanna White, are on this year's postseason roster. White rolled a 611 to tie for 17th at state.

The other returnees are juniors Delaney Ferguson, Shannon Gonzales, Briann McKnight and Olivia Michael.

McKnight led Gahanna at district with a 571 that tied her for 10th while sophomore Taylor Burns, who also was on the roster last year, was 29th (515).

"We did really well in our bakers (at district)," McKnight said. "It's really exciting. We're hoping to go further (at state) than we did last year."

Competing for the boys team in the district tournament was junior Julian Nitsch, who placed 55th (562) as the top four individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state Saturday, March 11, at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.

Girls basketball team
falls in district final

The girls basketball team was happy to get back on the district map after a down season, but it also showed it wasn't intimidated against the state's No. 1 team.

Competing in a Division I district final under first-year coach Betsy Morrison, the 11th-seeded Lions led top-seeded Newark 17-13 at the end of the first period before scoring just two second-quarter points.

The Wildcats outscored Gahanna 29-8 during the middle quarters and went on to win 52-37 on March 4 at Ohio Dominican to improve to 26-0.

A year after going 13-11 and losing in the second round, the Lions went 18-8 overall.

"It felt really good to be back," said senior Sam Jenkins, who was a key player as a sophomore when the Lions won a district title. "From the beginning a lot of people had doubts about us, but we went further than we did last year."

Jenkins, who will play for Walsh University, scored 11 points against Newark.

The Lions opened the district tournament Feb. 28 with an 81-29 home win over 28th-seeded Mifflin. They then beat 33rd-seeded Delaware 59-22 in the second round Feb. 24 at home and defeated 13th-seeded Zanesville 57-39 in a district semifinal March 1 at Watkins Memorial.

"We wanted to play in a district championship (game) and I still believe that it's not like we didn't have a chance," Morrison said. "We struggled a little bit to score in the middle of the game (against Newark), but it's something that we can build. We'll go back and look at it and it's never too early to start."

Gahanna went 6-4 in the OCC-Ohio Division to finish third behind Pickerington Central (10-0) and Reynoldsburg (8-2) and ahead of Pickerington North (3-7), Grove City (2-8) and Lancaster (1-9).

Jenkins led a five-member senior class that also featured guard Benja Duff and forwards Mena Colson and Amanda Fire. Jenkins averaged 10 points.

The leading scorer was freshman guard Edyn Battle, who averaged 12 points.

Juniors Addie Kittel (center), A'mya Bess (forward) and Kayla McGinnis (guard), sophomores Madison Hensley (guard) and Breyanna Bess (forward) and freshman Morgan Darnell (guard) also are eligible to return.

Hensley averaged eight points and Darnell averaged 4.5.

"We wouldn't be where we are without our freshman, or without any of them," Morrison said. "We do have some talented eighth-graders coming in. We'll see how they fit in in the summer, but there's definitely a lot of talent in the middle school."

Boys basketball team
makes district semi

The 13th-seeded boys basketball team was 15-9 before playing ninth-seeded Pickerington North in a Division I district semifinal March 8 at Bloom-Carroll.

The winner plays second-seeded Newark or 15th-seeded Olentangy Liberty in a district final at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, March 11, at Ohio Dominican.

Gahanna did not play Newark during the regular season but beat Liberty 66-45 on Jan. 3.

If the Lions win a district title, they would play Upper Arlington, Northland, Groveport or Hilliard Bradley in a regional semifinal March 16 at Ohio Dominican.

Gahanna did not play UA, Northland, Groveport or Bradley during the regular season.

To set up the matchup with North, Gahanna closed on a 13-3 run to beat 22nd-seeded Thomas Worthington 57-42 on Feb. 28 in a second-round home game. The Lions got 21 points from Jordan Mitchell and nine from Josh Corbin as they overcame a 25-22 halftime deficit.

Gahanna also beat Thomas 62-56 on Dec. 22.

Salazar represents
wrestlers at district

To qualify for the Division I district wrestling tournament, sophomore 113-pounder Cristian Salazar beat an opponent he had lost to earlier in the season, Bradley freshman Avery Ramsey, during the Watkins Memorial sectional Feb. 25.

Salazar found himself in the same situation to begin the district tournament March 3 at Hilliard Darby but wasn't able to avenge an earlier loss to Licking Heights' Mitchell Coultas, as he fell 16-3 to fall into the backdraw.

Salazar won his next two matches March 4 but got pinned by Watkins Memorial's Alex Fulwider in 2 minutes, 20 seconds to end his season.

He went 31-16 overall and was the only district qualifier for Gahanna, which tied for 36th (4) behind champion Liberty (236.5) as 42 teams scored.

Salazar was a district qualifier at 106 a year ago.

"Last year I just wanted to get (to district)," he said. "I had a few (rough moments) around when we went to (the) Medina (Invitational on Dec. 27) but I started coming back up."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek