As sophomores in the Gahanna Lincoln girls basketball team's rotation, Gabby Anderson and Bella Ward have seen their relationship grow on and off the court the last two seasons.

It hasn't always been that way.

"We used to be rivals in eighth grade," Anderson said, referring to middle school when she attended Gahanna East and Ward attended Gahanna South.

Ward still jokes with Anderson about how her middle school team beat Anderson's.

"We're best friends now," Ward said as the two laughed.

With seniors Edyn Battle, Morgan Darnell, Kennadi Harris and Kyla Smith as other key players, Anderson and Ward unquestionably look like players who will be called on the next two seasons to serve in leadership roles.

So far, the young duo and their teammates have done a significant amount of learning against a challenging schedule.

Gahanna is 2-5 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division entering its game Friday, Dec. 20, at Grove City.

On Monday, Dec. 23, the Lions will play host to Berlin Hiland, a Division III state semifinalist last season. They then close 2019 by playing Dec. 29 at Shaker Heights Laurel, a Division II district runner-up last season.

The Lions opened Nov. 24 with an 81-64 loss to Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame, last year's Division I state champion, and fell 61-56 to last year's Division I state runner-up, Pickerington Central, on Dec. 3 in their league opener before losing 68-55 to Westerville South, a Division I regional semifinalist last season, on Dec. 10.

Gahanna also lost to Westerville North 48-45 on Nov. 27 and Watterson 49-37 on Dec. 14. The Warriors are 6-1 and the Eagles, who were a Division I district runner-up last season, were 7-0 before playing Pickerington North on Dec. 16.

The Lions, who also were a Division I district runner-up last season, have posted wins over Reynoldsburg (74-62 on Dec. 6), a regional runner-up a year ago, and Pickerington North (80-24 on Dec. 13).

"(The challenging schedule is) going to help us grow and get better," coach Ron Bailey said.

Battle is averaging 18 points and scored a career-high 33, including five 3-pointers, against Reynoldsburg, while Ward has scored in double figures four times, including a team-high 18 points against Mount Notre Dame.

Battle, Harris and Smith all scored 11 against Pickerington North.

Anderson, a 5-foot-10 forward who was named special mention all-league last season, and Ward, a 6-0 wing player, have provided much of the toughness down low along with Harris, who also is 6-0.

"Throughout the last few games, we've definitely learned we struggle coming out and bringing back the energy we had in the first half into the third quarter, but (against Reynoldsburg) we really showed we can bring the energy back," Anderson said.

Ward has seen her team grow in the area of chemistry.

"This year I've tried to step up for my team and tried to do more on the offensive and defensive side," Ward said. "We have to be able to pick up our teammates and (Gabby and I) are some of the bigger people on the team so we have to get rebounds."

Hockey squad finding positives

A week after beating Watterson 3-0 on Dec. 7 at Chiller Easton, the hockey team lost to the Eagles 6-1 on Dec. 14 at Chiller Dublin.

The Lions are preparing to compete Friday, Dec. 20, through Sunday, Dec. 22, in the Kent Tournament at Kent State believing there have been enough moments like in the first matchup with the Eagles to build on going forward.

"We just weren't ready and there was a lot of little stuff (that hurt us Dec. 14)," coach Kevin Schodorf said. "We played Watterson really well last week, winning 3-0 and had a complete game with defense, forwards and our goaltending, which was really good. With a team with only two seniors, we're still young and inexperienced."

Gahanna is 4-7 overall and 1-5 in the CHC-Blue Division.

The Lions haven't played DeSales in league action yet, but they beat the Stallions 14-0 on Nov. 29 and 13-0 on Dec. 1 in the Chiller Thanksgiving Classic, with their other win coming Dec. 8 against Troy (7-0).

Forward Hayden Sindle-decker and goaltender Matt McElligott are the only seniors.

McElligott has posted shutouts in each of Gahanna's wins and is the program record-holder for career shutouts, according to Schodorf.

Sindledecker and sophomore forward Ethan Brehm both had two goals against Troy, sophomore forward Chase Pry had two goals in the win over Watterson and sophomore defenseman Nick Hoerig had hat tricks in both wins over DeSales.

"We have 11 (sophomores) and four or five that have really stepped up," Schodorf said. "We're moving in the right direction."

Defense strong for boys basketball team

The boys basketball team is 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Ohio entering its game Friday, Dec. 20, at home against Grove City.

The Lions, who then will play Walnut Ridge on Saturday, Dec. 21, at Capital, have held four of their five opponents under 50 points.

On Dec. 13, Gahanna won 44-42 over Pickerington North, a Division I regional runner-up last season, as junior forward Maceo Williams had 18 points.

That game also marked the return of sophomore guard Sean Jones, who missed the Lions' 61-46 victory at Westerville South on Dec. 10 because of an injury.

Against South, Williams and junior wing player Jarius Jones both had 20 points and senior guard Nate Staib and sophomore forward Javan Simmons both scored eight.

"The biggest thing is that we've got to get healthy because we've got a tough stretch," coach Tony Staib said. "We needed some other guys to handle the ball (against South) and Nate did a good job, especially in the second half, of keeping us composed and getting us in our offense. Three out of our (five) teams we've held in the 40s defensively, so I've been very pleased with our defensive effort."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Gahanna Lincoln boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 20 -- Home vs. Grove City

Dec. 21 -- Walnut Ridge at Capital

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 20 -- At Grove City

Dec. 23 -- Home vs. Berlin Hiland

BOWLING

*Dec. 19 -- Pickerington Central at HP Lanes

HOCKEY

Dec. 20 -- Oxford Talawanda in Kent Tournament at Kent State

Dec. 21 -- Kent Roosevelt and Hudson Western Reserve Academy in Kent Tournament

Dec. 22 -- TBD in Kent Tournament

SWIMMING & DIVING

Dec. 20 -- Home vs. Canal Winchester

Dec. 21 -- Westerville North at Westerville Recreation Center

WRESTLING

Dec. 19 -- At Briggs

Dec. 21 -- East Knox Invitational

*League contest