The last time the Gahanna Lincoln girls basketball team won a league championship, one of its current assistants, Amber Stokes, was in her senior season with the program.
During that 2007-08 season, the Lions got off to a rough start with Stokes missing the first few games with an injury, but they bounced back to finish 18-5.
Gahanna has been on a similar trek this winter.
With a 75-41 win over Lancaster on Feb. 7, the Lions improved to 16-6 overall and clinched a share of their first league title since 2007-08, as they finished 9-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division to tie Pickerington Central for first place.
Gahanna lost to Central 61-56 on Dec. 3 in its league opener, but avenged that setback with a 68-63 victory over the Tigers on Jan. 10 to snap an 11-game losing streak to Central and end the Tigers' 16-game winning streak in league play.
Central beat Grove City 62-40 on Feb. 7 to secure a share of its fifth consecutive league title.
"It's a big accomplishment for the program, a big accomplishment for the seniors," Lions coach Ron Bailey said. "They've been here four years and have never had an opportunity to win the league (title). Even though we share it with Pick Central, I'm happy for the girls, I'm happy for the program. I'm definitely excited for the girls."
Gahanna closed the regular season on a 13-game winning streak.
The Lions are seeded seventh for the Division I district tournament and will open Saturday, Feb. 15, at home against 38th-seeded Groveport, with the winner to play host to 46th-seeded Briggs in the second round Feb. 21.
Gahanna is the second-highest seed in its bracket behind No. 4 Dublin Coffman, which it beat 59-55 on Jan. 25.
"We've been playing well," senior guard Morgan Darnell said. "We've figured out how to play. We're moving the ball more until we have a good shot. We've never beaten Pick Central in my four years, so to share a league title in my senior year is very exciting."
Senior guard Edyn Battle, who became the program's all-time leading scorer in early January, has been averaging 16 points to lead the offense.
Just as important, according to Bailey, has been that other players have stepped up alongside Darnell in the aspect of distributing the ball. Darnell is one of the area's leaders in assists, averaging nearly four per game.
"We play together as a team now and we're more united as a front," junior guard CeCe Carter said. "We're more patient on offense, too."
Against Coffman, sophomore forward Gabby Anderson had 20 points and Battle scored 18.
In a 52-37 victory over City League-North Division champion Northland on Feb. 1, sophomore wing player Bella Ward led with 22 points.
Gahanna earned a season sweep of Lancaster behind 25 points from Battle and 15 from senior forward Kennadi Harris. The Lions also beat the Golden Gales 67-44 on Jan. 3.
"We've been sharing the basketball," Bailey said. "In our first six games, we weren't averaging that many assists as a team. Morgan would have her assists, but as a team it was low. This little win streak we've had, the basketball's been moving and they've been playing together as a team."
Swimmers advance to district level
The swimming and diving teams opened the Division I district meet at Ohio State with boys diving Feb. 12 and continue district action Thursday, Feb. 13, with boys and girls swimming and girls diving.
From district, the top six boys divers, the top four girls divers, the top two finishers in each swimming event and 16 at-large qualifiers in each swimming event based on times statewide advance to the state meet, which begins Feb. 20 and concludes Feb. 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
On Feb. 8 in a sectional at Thomas Worthington, the boys team finished fifth (120 points) of 15 teams, behind champion New Albany (257), and the girls were second (215) of 14 teams, behind New Albany (400).
McCord Riegler was runner-up in the 100-yard breaststroke (59.34 seconds), Johnny Belli placed fourth in the 50 freestyle (22.15) and fifth in the 100 backstroke (56.21) and the 200 free relay of Riegler, Belli, Derek Yu and Nathan Vogelgesang was fourth (1:32.17) to lead the boys team.
For the girls squad, Marie Belli won the 200 individual medley (2:07.06) and placed third in the 100 butterfly (56.76), Reagan Reetz won the 500 free (5:06.66) and placed third in the 200 free (1:56.38), Kendall Hitler was third in the 200 IM (2:10.09), Eloise Fisher placed third in the 100 breast (1:08.25), Kiss was fourth in the 100 breast (1:08.44) the 200 medley relay of Belli, Fisher, Sami Kiss and Hitler placed second (1:48.96), the 200 free relay of Fisher, Kiss, Hitler and Reetz was third (1:42.06) and the 400 free relay of Reetz, Gwyneth Payton, Stella Brofford and Belli was runner-up (3:40.03).
Wrestlers continue postseason prep
The wrestling team gets its final tune-ups of the regular season when it competes in the All-North Tournament Saturday, Feb. 15, at Dublin Jerome and at Amanda-Clearcreek on Wednesday, Feb. 19.
The Lions close their OCC-Ohio schedule Thursday, Feb. 13, at Grove City. They are 1-3 in the league, with their victory coming against Reynoldsburg, 45-32 on Jan. 23.
On Feb. 8, Gahanna was the 11th seed and faced sixth-seeded Olentangy Berlin in its opening match of the Division I, Region 5 team tournament. The winner faced third-seeded Marysville or 14th-seeded Mifflin in a quarterfinal, and the semifinal and final rounds also were held that day.
The individual postseason begins with a Division I sectional Feb. 29 at Watkins Memorial.
On Jan. 25 in the Utica Invitational, Gahanna placed fourth (156) of 12 teams, behind champion Bellefontaine Benjamin Logan (317.5), as Paulo Dragin (160 pounds) and Charles Williams (132) both won titles.
Victor Anderson (heavyweight) and Carter Person (126) both finished fourth, Ricky Alli (170) and Justice Richardson (220) both placed fifth and Marcus Rogers (152) and Zavier Thevenin (138) both finished sixth.
Athletes announce college selections
Eight student-athletes announced their college decisions Feb. 5.
Caroline Heller will play softball for Otterbein, Jarrett Lukacsko will play men's soccer for Mount Union, Vaiden Mallonn will play softball for Heidelberg, Kailey Mishler will play women's volleyball for Otterbein, A'che Sanchez-Baccus will play football for West Virginia State, Payton Smith will play men's soccer for Otterbein, Will Thomas will play football for Tiffin and Travis Whittaker will play football for Ohio Dominican.
Below are the coming schedules for the Gahanna Lincoln boys basketball and hockey teams:
*Feb. 14 -- Home vs. Pickerington Central. The Lions beat the Tigers 44-42 on Jan. 10.
Feb. 22 -- Home vs. 45th-seeded Olentangy Berlin in first round of Division I district tournament. The Lions are the top seed.
Feb. 12 -- Played 15th-seeded Watterson in opener of Blue Jackets Cup consolation tournament. Winner plays 10th-seeded Thomas Worthington in quarterfinal Feb. 14 at Chiller North. Semifinals and final are Feb. 15 and 16, respectively, at OhioHealth Ice Haus. The Lions are seeded 16th.