The Gahanna Lincoln girls basketball team is doing its best not to buy into any hype surrounding its program this season.
In addition to returning a pair of Division I college recruits in senior guards Edyn Battle (5-foot-7) and Morgan Darnell (5-5), who have committed to Miami University and Hartford, respectively, the Lions bring back nearly all of their other key players after going 18-8 overall and reaching a Division I district final a year ago.
Gahanna opened Nov. 24 against Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame in the Journey to the Tourney at West Chester Lakota West and begins OCC-Ohio Division play Tuesday, Dec. 3, at Pickerington Central.
Mount Notre Dame won the Division I state championship last season with a 52-31 victory over Central, which won the league title at 10-0 with Reynoldsburg (7-3) and the Lions (6-4) rounding out the top three.
"We try to get in that gym and get our identity and work on us," second-year coach Ron Bailey said. "We try not to pay attention to (expectations). Sometimes that can be a distraction. I've liked what I've seen and they've been playing really hard and practicing really hard, so I'm definitely excited."
Last season, Battle averaged 14.5 points and was named third-team all-district and first-team all-league and Darnell averaged nine points, 3.5 rebounds, four assists and 2.5 steals and was honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league.
Sophomore Gabby Anderson, a 5-10 forward who was special mention all-league and averaged eight points and 6.5 rebounds, and senior Kennadi Harris (6-0) are the top returnees in the paint.
The other senior is Kyla Smith (5-7, guard), while also returning are junior Naomi Johnson (5-9, forward/wing player) and sophomores Gracie Hensley (5-10, wing player/post player) and Bella Ward (6-0, wing player).
Others looking to contribute include juniors CeCe Carter (5-7, guard) and Constance Scott (5-6, guard), sophomore JuJu Grubich (5-4, guard) and freshman Clarke Jackson (5-7, guard).
The only player lost to graduation was Madison Hensley, who made a game-winning 3-pointer with five seconds left in a 75-72 district semifinal win over Dublin Coffman last season and is now playing for Mount Union.
"Things have been going well," Battle said. "We've been working hard. We're a fast team. We should shock some people this year and go really far."
Hockey team looks to take another step
After winning just two games in the 2017-18 season, the hockey team improved to 10-24-0-2 last winter.
The Lions lost only three players to graduation and bring back a nucleus that includes senior goaltender Matt McElligott, senior forward Hayden Sindledecker and junior defenseman Thomas Giles as they try to build on that improvement.
Gahanna, which opened Nov. 23 against Cincinnati Moeller at Northland Ice Center, will play four games Friday, Nov. 29, through Sunday, Dec. 1, in the Chiller Thanksgiving Classic at Chiller North.
The Lions placed fifth in the six-team CHC-Blue Division at 2-12-0-1 last season.
"I'm excited," third-year coach Kevin Schodorf said. "We put in a lot of work in the summer and fall and I had individual player meetings at my house on (Nov. 10) and everybody seemed to be on the same page. We've been able to implement more hockey systems with our power play and penalty kill and we've got a bunch of guys that have been around for at least a year and are ready to take the next step."
McElligott earned eight of the Lions' victories last season in goal and recorded an .884 save-percentage, with Sindledecker finishing with 24 goals and 11 assists and Giles having six goals and 20 assists.
Junior defenseman Ashwin Kumar (7 goals), sophomore defenseman Nick Hoerig and sophomore forwards Ethan Brehm and Hayden Waara also are top returnees.
Rounding out the roster are juniors Mykohl Martin (forward) and John Warner (defenseman), sophomores Noah Amos (forward), Bradley Geiman (defenseman), Josh Knuckles (forward), Defang Ntedatebem (forward), Brendan Phillips (forward), Chase Pry (forward), Rohan Schmidt (forward) and Cole Tiberio (forward) and freshman Josh Goldman (forward).
The biggest loss to graduation was defenseman/forward Zach Parsons, who had 11 goals and 10 assists.
"We're a pretty young team with only two seniors," Schodorf said. "This year our goal should be to be competitive in every game and I think we stack up really well with other teams in the Blue Division."
Below are the coming schedules for the Gahanna Lincoln girls basketball, bowling and hockey teams:
*Dec. 3 -- At Pickerington Central
*Dec. 2 -- Thomas Worthington at HP Lanes
Nov. 29 -- DeSales in Chiller Thanksgiving Tournament at Chiller North
Nov. 30 -- Thomas Worthington and St. Charles (JV) in Chiller Thanksgiving Tournament at Chiller North
Dec. 2 -- TBD in Chiller Thanksgiving Tournament at Chiller North