Reaching the Division I state tournament for the first time since 2011 helped ease the pain the Gahanna Lincoln boys bowling team experienced each of the past two seasons when it finished one spot shy of advancing.
For the girls team, it was an accomplishment to get back to familiar territory after winning the 2018 state championship but falling short of qualifying for state last year at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl.
Both teams put together memorable finishes at this year’s state tournament, as the boys qualified for the championship round and finished eighth overall of 16 teams March 6 at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl and the girls won their second state championship in three seasons March 7 at the same venue.
Following runner-up finishes at both the sectional Feb. 22 and the district tournament Feb. 29, both at the Lions’ home HP Lanes, the girls were the fifth seed entering the championship round, where they beat fourth-seeded Cincinnati Seton 3-2 in a quarterfinal, top-seeded Springfield 3-1 in a semifinal and sixth-seeded Fairborn 3-1 for the title.
“We’ve got a good group of girls here and they came together, they worked together and they won as a team,” coach Yvonne Quiero said. “That’s a fantastic feeling. These girls work hard. I’m proud of them and we’re proud of what they’ve done.”
Junior Lilu Smith, who competed at state in 2018 when the Lions won the title, followed her sectional championship (671 three-game series) and a ninth-place finish at district (527) by placing 10th (592) of 103 bowlers at state to earn second-team all-state honors.
“It’s definitely cool because it’s been two years since I was there,” Smith said. “We know we have a good team that can stand up against anybody else.”
Also at state, sophomore Kaitlyn Mundschenk finished 17th (577) and sophomore Addison Watson was 27th (548), while seniors Jalynn Johnson and Aubree Packer and sophomore Lindzi Oakman also competed.
Sophomore Tori Richardson rounded out the team’s state tournament roster.
“Our averages have gone up so much and (Packer and I have) worked really hard the past four years, so this is really rewarding the last time we bowl to be for a state championship,” Johnson said.
The boys team, which placed 10th at state during its only previous appearance, finished 10th at sectional but led through the three games of regulation at district and finished second overall (3,813) to advance to state.
Senior Nathan Minzler, who tied for seventh at district (615), finished 14th (654) at state to earn honorable mention all-state honors.
Sophomore Eddy Pax finished fourth (633) at district and 49th (563) at state.
Junior DeAndre Quiero (tied for 43rd, 573), sophomore Kevin Foit (61st, 541) and junior Jimmy Walther (76th, 493) also competed at state.
Junior Darrell Firks and freshman Matthew Vansach were others in the program.
“For the past two years as a team, we’ve been really close (to qualifying for state),” Minzler said. “We’ve been (within) 50 pins (the past two seasons of advancing) and that was devastating to all of our hearts to hear that we were that close for so many years. To finally be able to say we’re (at state) is phenomenal.”
The girls team won its fifth consecutive COHSBC title, winning the COHSBC-B Division at 12-0 and extending its league winning streak to 74 matches. It also won the OCC-Central at 6-0 as Mundschenk, Oakman and Smith were first-team all-league and Packer made the second team.
Minzler was first-team all-OCC-Central, Pax and Deandre Quiero were second-team and Kevin Foit made third team for the boys team, which tied Reynoldsburg for first at 5-1.
“Moving (our home venue to HP Lanes this season) helped us because my philosophy was that they hold sectionals and districts here, so how could we not pick up those 30-some pins we needed when you’re practicing on those lanes?” coach Cris Ferrante said. “We (also) were much better in spare shooting.”
Boys basketball team reaches district final
The boys basketball team appeared in a Division I district final for the first time since finishing as a regional runner-up in 2016.
The top-seeded Lions defeated 22nd-seeded Whitehall 68-45 in a district semifinal March 4 at Ohio Dominican but then lost to sixth-seeded Walnut Ridge 52-47 in a district final March 7 at ODU to finish 24-2.
Gahanna beat the Scots 53-50 on Dec. 21.
“This group’s been focused all year,” coach Tony Staib said. “I’m proud of this group. (Walnut Ridge is) just huge, they’re big, strong, aggressive and senior dominated. They have all the pieces. They’re bigger than us at almost every position.”
Nate Staib made a 3-pointer with 1 minute, 3 seconds remaining as Gahanna cut its deficit to 44-41. Sean Jones then scored to pull the Lions to within 48-47, but Walnut Ridge’s Qian Magwood hit a pair of free throws with 14.6 seconds left and Leon Doug-las sealed the win with a layup just before the buzzer.
Williams to wrestle at state tourney
Junior Charles Williams will represent the wrestling team at the Division I state tournament, which runs Friday, March 13, through Sunday, March 15, at Ohio State, after placing fourth at 132 pounds at district March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby.
Williams, who was a No. 1 seed at district after winning the Watkins Memorial sectional Feb. 29, enters state at 40-6.
“It means a lot to me,” Williams said. “My goal is to make it past Friday and keep wrestling.”
Gahanna tied Hilliard Davidson for 26th (20 points) at district behind champion Dublin Coffman (174.5) as 40 teams scored.
Senior Paulo Dragin went 2-2 at 152 to finish 26-12 on the season, junior Ricky Alli went 1-2 at 170 to finish 38-13 and freshman Gavin Larrison went 0-2 at 106 to finish 14-14.
Williams is the Lions’ first state qualifier since 2018, when 2019 graduate Cristian Salazar finished fourth at 113.
Girls to build around sophomore duo
The girls basketball team lost to Newark 61-31 in a Division I regional semifinal March 3 at Otterbein to finish 20-7 overall.
Gahanna was led this season by senior guards Morgan Darnell and Edyn Battle, who were key players throughout their prep careers and helped the Lions finish as district runners-up in 2017 and last season and win district titles in 2018 and this season.
“The seniors meant a lot to me,” coach Ron Bailey said. “They played in district finals four years in a row and won two district championships. They laid a foundation of what we want our program to look like.”
Battle, a Miami University signee, averaged 16.5 points and was named Player of the Year in the district and the OCC-Ohio Division as the Lions went 9-1 in the league to share the title with Pickerington Central. She is the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,442 points.
Darnell, a Hartford commit, averaged nine points and was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Senior forward Kennadi Harris was honorable mention all-league and senior guard Kyla Smith also was a key player.
Sophomore forwards Bella Ward and Gabby Anderson scored 12 and eight points, respectively, against Newark, which snapped the Lions’ 17-game winning streak.
Ward, who averaged 9.5 points and 4.5 rebounds, and Anderson, who averaged seven points and 6.5 rebounds, both made second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Junior guard Cece Carter should take on a bigger role next season.
Juniors Naomi Johnson (forward/wing player) and Constance Scott (guard), sophomores JuJu Grubich (guard) and Gracie Hensley (wing player/forward) and freshman Clarke Jackson (guard) are others eligible to return.
“We’ve got a few players (coming back),” Bailey said. “We’ve got to find somebody who’s going to take care of the ball because Morgan meant a lot in dictating the tempo and handling the basketball, but that’s what the offseason is for. We’ve just got to see who steps up, roll the ball out and let them compete.”