Soul-searching might be the best way to describe where the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys basketball team stands with the Division I district tournament a little more than three weeks away.
Sure, the Lions were fifth in last week's area coaches poll and are on pace to surpass their 15-win season of last winter.
In addition, at 12-5 overall and 4-3 in the OCC-Ohio Division after losing to Pickerington Central 72-56 on Jan. 29, Gahanna figures to be a strong candidate to receive a top-eight seed in the tournament drawing Feb. 11.
The first adversity the Lions have had to endure, however, came during the final weekend of January, so they know it's crucial for them to respond.
After getting blown out by Pickerington North 81-57 on Jan. 26 at home, Gahanna gave up the game's first 10 points and never totally recovered during a 61-46 loss to Africentric on Jan. 27 in the Jared Sullinger Play by Play Classic at Ohio Dominican.
"We've just got to be resilient," senior guard Chase Rankin said. "We knew coming into (last) weekend we had three really good teams (including Central on Jan. 29). We've got to have short-term memory.
"We do have the pieces. It's a matter of looking at ourselves in the mirror and saying that every possession we're going to give 100 percent, every possession we're not going to let our man score, every possession we're not going to let our man get a rebound. We have all the talent in the world when it comes to the offensive side, but we've just got to look ourselves in the mirror that we need to sit down and hold teams to bad shots."
Rankin's performance during the third quarter against Africentric, when he scored 13 of his team-high 17 points, was the weekend's biggest bright spot.
The continuing growth the Lions have shown inside, particularly with the improvement of 6-foot-7 senior post player Mike Reeves, also is a positive going forward.
Through 16 games, Rankin was averaging 12.9 points while junior guard Elijah Thomas was leading the way at 13.2 and junior guard Josh Corbin was averaging 12.4.
"This is the toughest stretch of our schedule," coach Tony Staib said. "We've sort of gotten punched in the mouth, so we'll sort of see what our resolve is. This is really the first time we've faced a lot of adversity. We've tasted adversity against two really good teams (in North and Africentric), so good teams respond to that and we'll see how we respond.
"We need to get back to square one with better execution on the offensive end, better intensity level on the defensive end, having a group of guys that want to play for each other and finish the season strong."
Swimmers to build from strong OCC meet
On Jan. 25 at New Albany and Jan. 27 at Thomas Worthington in the OCC-Ohio Division meet, the boys swimming and diving team captured its first league championship since 2008.
The boys scored 297 points to finish ahead of Lancaster (238), Reynoldsburg (200.5), Pickerington North (178), Grove City (172) and Pickerington Central (113.5).
"It has been a goal since last year (that) words can't describe," coach Jeff Riegler said. "We were all thrilled that our hard work paid off."
Johnny Belli provided the only swimming title for the Lions, winning the 100-yard butterfly in 54.86 seconds.
Gahanna scored 38 points in the 100 backstroke, with Paul Padgett finishing second (57.06) and Belli placing third (58.8).
Also finishing second were Padgett in the 50 freestyle (23.01), the 200 medley relay of Padgett, Caleb Gilger, McCord Riegler and Nathan Vogelgesang (1:47.65) and the 400 free relay of Belli, Logan Marks, Jacob Sherman and Austin Wharton (3:34.75).
Placing third were Marks in the 100 free (52.11) and the 200 free relay of Belli, Marks, Padgett and Vogelgesang (1:34.15).
Gahanna was the only team to compete in diving. Casey Jordan was first (292.25) and Alex Couch was second (224.85).
The boys and girls teams next compete Feb. 10 in a Division I sectional at Thomas.
The girls were runners-up (249) in the league meet behind North (389) and ahead of Lancaster (229), Central (133), Grove City (116) and Reynoldsburg (77).
Although defending state champion Maycey Vieta was out of town and unable to participate, the Lions took the top three spots in diving as the only team to enter any competitors. Lina Alli scored 377 points to edge Ashleigh Provan (376.9) for the title and Kendra Dillon was third (325.1).
Also winning a league title was Lydia Gilger in the 100 fly (1:00.39).
Earning runner-up finishes were Gilger in the 200 free (2:02.98), Hannah Snedden in the 100 back (1:01.21), Payton Vogelgesang in the 50 free (25.39) and the 200 medley relay of Madison Gibson, Mackenzie Massmann, Snedden and Vogelgesang (1:56.81).
Placing third were Snedden in the 200 individual medley (2:15.21), Vogelgesang in the 100 free (55.38), the 200 free relay of Gibson, Gilger, Massmann and Rylee Slisher (1:48.76) and the 400 free relay of Gilger, Slisher, Snedden and Vogelgesang (3:51.14).
Bowlers battling for league titles
The boys and girls bowling teams began the week in the thick of league championship battles.
Before facing Lancaster on Jan. 30, both teams were 2-0 in the OCC-Central with league matches remaining against Pickerington Central (Jan. 31), Reynoldsburg (Friday, Feb. 2) and Hilliard Davidson (Monday, Feb. 5).
The girls beat Beechcroft 2,254-1,040 on Jan. 29 to improve to 12-0 overall and 11-0 in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-A Division. The boys beat the Cougars 2,468-1,937 to improve to 10-2 and 9-2 in the COHSBC-A.
The boys team's hopes of winning the COHSBC-A likely ended when it lost to Westerville Central 2,401-2,338 on Jan. 19. The Warhawks were 10-0 in the league before facing London on Jan. 30 and close league play Friday, Feb. 2, against Marysville.
On Jan. 21 in the Central District Preview at Columbus Square Bowling Palace, the girls bowled a 4,140 to finish first during the 18-team qualifying round and then beat Olentangy 185-175, 161-159 and 225-191 in the finale of the championship bracket.
Lilu Smith and Briann McKnight each rolled a 657 series during the qualifying tournament to tie for first and Delaney Ferguson had a 582 to place eighth. All three made the all-tournament team.
The boys were runners-up (4,132) behind Westerville Central (4,740) during the 17-team qualifying round but lost to eventual champion Hilliard Darby in five games in the first round of the eight-team championship bracket.
Nathan Minzler had a 655 to finish seventh and make the all-tournament team.
Wrestling team beats Raiders
On Jan. 25, the wrestling team beat Reynoldsburg 46-22 to improve to 2-1 in the OCC-Ohio.
The Lions close league action Feb. 8 with duals against Grove City and Lancaster.
Against the Raiders, Charles Williams (113 pounds), Cristian Salazar (120), Juan Porras (126), Jamal Lloyd (132), Brian Walthaw (170), Major Brown (182), Adam Grimard (195) and Nathan Garbark (220) picked up victories.
On Jan. 24 at Watkins Memorial, the fourth-seeded Lions beat fifth-seeded New Albany 36-33 but lost to top-seeded Lancaster 48-27 in Region 5-A matches of the Division I team dual tournament.
Below are the coming schedules for the Gahanna Lincoln boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, hockey and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 2 -- At Grove City. The Lions beat the Greyhounds 72-58 on Dec. 22.
Feb. 3 -- At Dayton Northridge
Feb. 6 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
*Feb. 1 -- Home vs. Grove City. The Lions beat the Greyhounds 72-37 on Dec. 22.
Feb. 3 -- At Watterson
Feb. 6 -- At Westerville Central
*Feb. 1 -- Westerville South at Gahanna Lanes
*Feb. 2 -- Reynoldsburg at Holiday Lanes
*Feb. 5 -- Hilliard Davidson at Ten Pin Alley
*Feb. 2 -- Thomas Worthington at Chiller North. The Lions lost to the Cardinals 7-5 on Jan. 26.
*Feb. 3 -- DeSales at Chiller Easton. The Lions lost to the Stallions 9-0 on Jan. 19.
*Feb. 4 -- Dublin Coffman at Chiller Easton
Feb. 3 -- Bender Duals at Caledonia River Valley