Deciphering why the Gahanna Lincoln boys basketball team was within three points of still being undefeated in late January is more about the sum of its parts than one major factor.
The Lions have one of central Ohio's top talents in sophomore guard Sean Jones and a pair of 6-foot-5 forwards in junior Maceo Williams and sophomore Javan Simmons to provide a consistent presence inside.
One could point to the energy that senior guards Zane Leitwein and Nate Staib have consistently brought or the improvement junior wing player Jarius Jones has shown as being key determinants.
Statistically, the biggest difference between what the Lions have done this winter and some of the ups and downs they experienced while finishing fourth in the OCC-Ohio Division and getting knocked out in the second round of the Division I district tournament last season might be that they were allowing an average of just 46 points through 19 games.
Having an improved mental approach, though, might trump all of those factors, according to coach Tony Staib.
"We're a well-balanced team," coach Staib said. "This team has solid guard play, wings that can do the job and also post players as well. The balance this team has has been evident throughout the entire year.
"I wouldn't say that defensively we're doing anything different than in previous years. I just think this group is really committed to the defensive end. They communicate very well on the court. Besides the effort and intensity, you've got to have great communication. We've just got a bunch of really smart guys that can execute."
Gahanna beat Grove City 57-47 on Jan. 31 to improve to 7-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division and was 18-1 overall before playing Westerville Central on Feb. 4.
The Lions, who also beat Chillicothe Zane Trace 78-63 on Jan. 28, have league games remaining Friday, Feb. 7, at Lancaster and Feb. 14 at home against Pickerington Central.
Gahanna beat Pickerington Central 44-42 on Jan. 10 but settled for a split with Pickerington North, winning 44-42 on Dec. 13 but losing the rematch 51-49 on Jan. 24.
Both North and Central are 6-2 in the league.
The Lions trailed North 48-46 on Jan. 24 with 2 minutes, 40 seconds left when Staib took a charge. Gahanna missed 3-point attempts on its next two possessions, but got to within 50-49 on a three-point play by Williams with 17.2 seconds left.
The Lions had the game's final possession but had two shots blocked during the closing seconds as the Panthers held on.
"It's two very good teams and it came down to the final possession," coach Staib said. "Games like that could go either way. Every possession matters. ... We've played a lot of good fourth quarters. To (start 18-1 before Feb. 4) is a huge compliment to this team and the hard work and effort they put in."
Gahanna, which was ranked second in the Division I area coaches poll and sixth in the state poll last week, will learn its path in the district tournament Sunday, Feb. 9.
"We love the energy and we love winning," junior Jarius Jones said. "Each practice we just compete with each other and make each other ready for the next game. Each day we're trying to get better. We expected this, to go out with a bang and go out strong. We compete at a high level each time and we fear nobody. It's just how our mentality is."
Hockey team seeing positives
The hockey team led league-leading Columbus Academy 2-1 early in the third period of a CHC-Blue Division contest Jan. 24 at Chiller Easton.
The Vikings proceeded to score four times on their way to a 5-3 victory in a game that showed both the progression the Lions have made as well as the steps they still need to take.
"(Early in the game, we were able to) get pucks down low and filtered to the front of the net," coach Kevin Schodorf. "Our defensemen did a good job of getting pucks in there. Unfortunately, in the third period, we kind of got back on our heels once they scored the tying goal. I think there were a couple odd-man rushes, one was off a faceoff, we weren't back-checking and playing our game in the third period.
"We're a young team with only two seniors and we've hit some road bumps along the way, but in general we're trending in the right direction."
Gahanna lost 11-1 to Cincinnati St. Xavier on Feb. 1 at Sports Plus Cincinnati and fell to 9-20-1 overall and 4-11 in the CHC-Blue with a 5-2 loss to Springboro on Feb. 2 at Chiller Easton. St. Xavier and Springboro both are in the CHC-White.
On Saturday, Feb. 8, Gahanna will play Dublin Scioto at Chiller Dublin in a rematch of a game the Lions won 11-2 on Jan. 2.
Sophomore forward Rohan Schmidt, who scored a program-record seven goals against the Irish, has 16 goals and 10 assists and senior forward Hayden Sindledecker, who had five goals in a 7-0 win over DeSales on Jan. 5, has 31 goals and 15 assists.
Girls bowlers wrap up titles
The girls bowling team was 13-0 overall and finished first in the COHSBC-B Division at 12-0 after beating Hilliard Darby 2,244-1,461 on Jan. 29 at Ten Pin Alley.
The Lions captured their fifth consecutive COHSBC title and have won 74 consecutive league matches.
Gahanna, which competed against Columbus Academy on Feb. 4 at HP Lanes, also won the OCC-Central title at 6-0.
Lilu Smith ranked second in the COHSBC with a 205.3 average before Feb. 3, but the Lions' depth also has been key.
Seniors Jalynn Johnson and Aubree Packer and sophomores Kaitlyn Mundschenk, Lindzi Oakman, Tori Richardson and Addison Watson all have been averaging better than 150 in league matches.
The boys team was 10-3 overall before competing against Academy on Feb. 4 and finished 9-3 in the COHSBC-B.
The Lions also finished 5-1 in the OCC-Central to share the title with Reynoldsburg.
Nathan Minzler ranked fourth in the COHSBC with a 212.3 average before Feb. 3.
The postseason begins with a Division I sectional at HP Lanes. The boys compete Feb. 21, followed by the girls the next day.
Below are the coming schedules for the Gahanna Lincoln boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, hockey and swimming & diving teams:
*Feb. 7 -- At Lancaster. The Lions beat the Golden Gales 74-49 on Jan. 2.
*Feb. 7 -- Home vs. Lancaster. The Lions beat the Gales 67-44 on Dec. 28.
Feb. 15 -- Home vs. 38th-seeded Groveport in first round of Division I district tournament. The Lions are seeded seventh.
Feb. 11 -- New Albany at HP Lanes
Feb. 12 -- Ready at HP Lanes
*Feb. 8 -- Dublin Scioto at Chiller Dublin
SWIMMING & DIVING
Feb. 8 -- Division I sectional at Thomas Worthington. The winner of each event and 27 at-large qualifiers in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites advance to district Feb. 13 at Ohio State. There is no diving at sectional.