The Gahanna Lincoln High School girls basketball team won 16 of its last 18 games a season ago, including beating an opponent that it had lost to twice during the regular season to capture a Division I district championship.
Keeping that momentum going this winter is among the goals of first-year coach Ron Bailey, an assistant a year ago who took over the program in early June after Betsy Baker stepped down following her second season.
"Everything's been going really well," Bailey said. "I'm excited about how the girls, I thought, had a real good summer. During conditioning, they put in a lot of work. Since practice started, they've been working really hard. I'm excited about this season."
Gahanna, which beat Reynoldsburg 54-52 to win a district title last season before falling 58-44 to eventual state champion Pickerington Central in a regional final to finish 19-8 overall, opened Nov. 23 by beating Washington Court House 69-58 in the Gary West Tipoff Classic at Reynoldsburg. The Lions then lost to Huber Heights Wayne 49-33 on Nov. 25 in the Journey to the Tourney at West Chester Lakota West.
The Lions were district runners-up in 2016-17 and went a combined 37-16 in Baker's two seasons, with juniors Morgan Darnell (5-foot-5, guard) and Edyn Battle (5-7, guard) and senior Madison Hensley (5-8, guard) serving as key players both seasons.
Battle scored 29 points in the district final against Reynoldsburg and averaged 13 a year ago while making first-team all-OCC-Ohio Division as the Lions went 5-5 in the league to place third behind the co-champion Raiders and Tigers (both 9-1).
Darnell averaged nine points and was named second-team all-league last season, while Hensley, who is the Lions' only senior, averaged 7.5 points and was honorable mention all-league.
Junior Kennadi Harris (5-7, guard) also is a key returnee after averaging six points.
The other juniors are Kyla Smith (5-7, guard/wing player) and Reagan Kelley (5-10, post player).
The tallest players in the program are Kelley, sophomore Naomi Johnson (5-10, forward) and freshmen Gabby Anderson (5-10, forward/guard), Gracie Hensley (5-10, forward/guard) and Bella Ward (5-10, forward/guard).
Others looking to contribute include sophomore guards Joi Bradley (5-7) and Alex VanHorssen (5-5).
"As a team, we're a lot more disciplined and we work together more as a team," Madison Hensley said. "We've started to know each other's potential, so we can work off that. We can work together as a team and work for what we want, which is to win district and hopefully get to states.
"We have some good juniors like Morgan Darnell and Edyn Battle, and we have Kyla Smith, and she's one of our best shooters along with me. We've got really good incoming freshmen that are pretty decent and have good height."
Gahanna lost three players to graduation and had two others not return who may have been contributors, with the biggest loss being 2018 graduate Anisja Harris, a guard and a Wright State recruit who averaged 15.5 points and was first-team all-league and second-team all-district last season.
Bailey is a 2001 East Cleveland Shaw graduate who formerly coached at the middle school level before joining Baker's coaching staff last season.
"I'm very excited about the team," Bailey said. "They've been working real hard and we'll see how we match up against other teams. I know the teams we play are really good. At the beginning of our season, we open against some tough teams. We're going to be able to see what kind of team we have."
Nov. 23 -- Washington Court House in Gary West Tipoff Classic at Reynoldsburg
Nov. 25 -- Huber Heights Wayne in Journey to the Tourney at West Chester Lakota West
Nov. 28 -- at Logan
*Dec. 4 -- vs. Pickerington Central
*Dec. 7 -- vs. Reynoldsburg
Dec. 12 -- vs. Watterson
*Dec. 14 -- at Pickerington North
Dec. 17 -- at Westerville South
*Dec. 21 -- vs. Grove City
Dec. 28 -- at Canal Winchester
Jan. 2 -- vs. Upper Arlington
*Jan. 4 -- vs. Lancaster
Jan. 8 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
*Jan. 11 -- at Pickerington Central
*Jan. 17 -- at Reynoldsburg
Jan. 19 -- At Berlin Hiland in Classic in the Country
Jan. 22 -- at New Albany
*Jan. 25 -- vs. Pickerington North
*Feb. 1 -- at Grove City
Feb. 2 -- at Hartley
Feb. 5 -- vs. Westerville Central
*Feb. 8 -- at Lancaster