Having No. 15 beside his team's name on the Division I district tournament bracket isn't sitting well with Gahanna Lincoln High School freshman boys basketball player Sean Jones.
The Lions, who had just one fewer loss at the time of this year's district tournament drawing but were seeded seventh last season, haven't been seeded this low since 2007 when they were No. 16 and lost in the second round.
Expectations remain high for the members of a program that has advanced to at least a district semifinal each of the last 10 seasons.
According to Jones, the Lions have been working on halfcourt defense, ball movement and knocking down shots in preparation for the postseason.
"After the tournament seeding came out, it made us prepare with more of a chip on our shoulder because of our seed," Jones said. "That's helped bring fuel to our fire."
The Lions lost to Pickerington Central 72-45 on Feb. 15 to close the regular season at 14-8 overall and 4-6 in the OCC-Ohio Division.
They open the postseason Saturday, Feb. 23, at home against 30th-seeded Dublin Scioto.
The winner plays 26th-seeded Big Walnut in a second-round game March 1, with another matchup against Central likely looming in a district semifinal March 6 if the Lions win their first two tournament games.
Ranked third in last week's state poll, Central is 21-1 overall and shared the OCC-Ohio title with Pickerington North at 9-1. Scioto and Big Walnut closed the regular season at 10-12 and 14-8, respectively.
Jones was averaging 13 points through 21 games and has been among the team's top defenders along with junior guards Nate Staib and Travis Whittaker, according to coach Tony Staib.
Nate Staib and junior wing player Zane Leitwein both were averaging seven points before Feb. 15 to complement Jones and senior guard Elijah Thomas, who was averaging a team-best 15 points.
Scioto has five players who average between seven and 10 points, with 6-foot-4 senior forward Dapreis Owens leading the way.
"I feel pretty confident on where we stand as a team as we start the tourney, especially with the home game we get to start out with, and I know our coaches are going to have us prepared to play and with what we're going to see from Scioto," Leitwein said. "Even though a lot of us haven't experienced the district tourney yet, I feel like we'll be ready to go out and compete."
The Lions bounced back from a 66-51 loss to Westerville Central on Feb. 5 -- their fourth game in six days -- by beating Lancaster 64-51 on Feb. 8.
Late last week, a bout of sickness ran through the locker room, forcing Gahanna to have limited practices.
"(Scioto has) got some good guards that can shoot the ball," coach Staib said. "They've got a post player inside that's tough and physical. You've just got to be prepared and ready to go. We're battling a flu bug right now that's been throughout our school. Everybody knows it's win or go home."
Vieta, four swimmers to compete at state
The girls swimming and diving team will have five representatives at the Division I state meet at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Senior Maycey Vieta will compete in diving Thursday, Feb. 21.
In swimming, freshman Reagan Reetz is the 24th seed in the 500-yard freestyle after placing seventh (5 minutes, 9.24 seconds) in the district meet Feb. 15 at Ohio State and the 200 medley relay of freshmen Kendall Hitler and Sami Kiss, senior Lydia Gilger and Reetz is the 21st seed after finishing sixth (1:48.45) at district.
Preliminary swimming events are Friday, Feb. 22, with the finals set for Saturday, Feb. 23.
"We had a lot of (personal-best times)," coach Jeff Riegler said. "We had a few (reach the) podium and had three divers (finish in the top eight at district), so that's pretty impressive. Our medley relay has three freshmen and one senior. Some of them really have a hard time with (district) because it's really intimidating the first time."
Vieta is making her fourth state appearance. She placed fourth at state as a freshman, captured the state title as a sophomore and was state runner-up last winter.
She scored 563.7 points at district to win the championship and is the No. 1 seed heading into state.
"I'm happy with how everything went (at district)," Vieta said. "I feel good and I'm ready for next week. I'm excited to kind of get it going."
Girls basketball team to face Falcons
The eighth-seeded girls basketball team opened the postseason Feb. 16 by beating 35th-seeded Logan 69-33 at home in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
Gahanna plays host to 41st-seeded Franklin Heights on Friday, Feb. 22, in the second round, with the winner facing third-seeded Dublin Coffman or 40th-seeded Westland in a district semifinal Wednesday, Feb. 27, at a site to be announced. The district final is March 2 at Ohio Dominican.
The Lions, who were district runners-up in 2017 and regional semifinalists last season, have won seven games in a row and are 16-7.
Gahanna got 13 points apiece from Kyla Smith and Bella Ward against Logan.
The Lions haven't played Coffman since 2012 when they beat the Shamrocks 41-34 in a district semifinal on their way to reaching a regional semifinal.
Coffman received votes in the final state poll and was 21-2 before playing Westland on Feb. 20. The Shamrocks are led by senior Jacy Sheldon, an Ohio State signee who was named district Player of the Year the past two seasons and has more than 2,200 career points.
Freshman guard Imarianah Russell has emerged as a second scoring option for Coffman.
According to Lions coach Ron Bailey, junior Morgan Darnell and freshmen Gabby Anderson and Ward are among his team's best on-ball defenders.
"(Coffman is) a great basketball team," Bailey said. "They like to get out and run and they play defense. They're right up there with Pick Central, Newark and Reynoldsburg. They're a top-three seed for a reason."
Most of hockey team expected to return
Despite having just three seniors, the hockey team quadrupled its win total this season.
On Feb. 16, the 21st-seeded Lions opened the district tournament with a 2-1 overtime win over 18th-seeded Kettering Alter at OhioHealth Ice Haus as freshman forward Brendan Phillips scored the tying goal and freshman forward Rohan Schmidt scored the game-winner.
The Lions then lost to sixth-seeded Cincinnati Moeller 11-0 on Feb. 17 in a second-round game at the Ice Haus for a final record of 10-24-0-2 overall.
Gahanna finished fifth in the Capital Hockey Conference-Blue Division at 2-12-0-1 (5 points), behind Thomas Worthington (21, 9-3-2-1), Olentangy Berlin (18, 8-5-1-1), Columbus Academy (16, 8-7) and DeSales (10, 4-9-0-2) and ahead of Scioto (4, 2-13).
The Lions earned league wins over Scioto (5-3 on Dec. 8) and DeSales (5-4 in overtime Jan. 12) and went 3-1 overall against the Irish and 2-1 overall against the Stallions.
Last season, Gahanna finished 2-30.
The senior class was comprised of defenseman/forward Zach Parsons, forward Andrew Lau and backup goaltender Brendan Holahan. Parsons had 11 goals and 10 assists.
Junior forward Hayden Sindledecker, junior goaltender Matt McElligott and sophomore forward/defenseman Thomas Giles should be the top returnees.
Sindledecker had 22 goals and 8 assists, McElligott had eight of the Lions' wins and Giles had six goals and 19 assists.
"About half of our team is made up of freshmen," coach Kevin Schodorf said. "We only have five upperclassmen, whereas other teams might have 10-plus seniors."
Others eligible to return include sophomore Ashwin Kumar (defenseman) and freshmen Ethan Brehm (defenseman), Nick Hoerig (defenseman) and Hayden Waara (defenseman).
"Next year, we'll have five or six freshmen coming in," Schodorf said. "We have a (youth) program. When we beat DeSales 5-4 in overtime, the kids (in the youth program) went onto the ice with us. (We're trying to) drive interest in the program, just getting to identify all the kids that are in middle school."
Bowlers ready for postseason
The bowling teams are set to begin the postseason.
The girls team will compete in the 38-team Division I sectional Friday, Feb. 22, at HP Lanes and the boys will compete in the 43-team sectional Saturday, Feb. 23, at the same venue.
The top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams advance to the district tournament March 2 at HP Lanes.
On Feb. 13, the boys team beat New Albany 2,211-1,862 and the girls defeated the Eagles 1,966-1,539 as both teams closed the regular season 13-0 overall.
Wrestlers getting set for sectional
The wrestling team will compete in a 10-team Division I sectional Saturday, Feb. 23, at Watkins Memorial.
The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the district tournament March 1 and 2 at Hilliard Darby.