Gahanna Lincoln Roundup: Lions boys basketball team eager to get on roll

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Gahanna Lincoln's Jarius Jones goes up for a shot over Whitehall's Kei'Von Wiggins as the Rams' Teddy Brown and the Lions' Cam Johnson (3) look on during a game Dec. 31. Gahanna won its first seven games before going into a COVID-19 quarantine.

The Gahanna Lincoln boys basketball team looked at the last couple of weeks similarly to halftime of a tight game: Emotions ran high while the Lions were taking a rest from the intensity. 

The day after a 56-55 victory over St. Charles on Jan. 4, Gahanna was placed in quarantine because of COVID-19 issues. 

The Lions were expected to be begin practicing Jan. 17, giving them time to get back in sync for their contest Jan. 20 against Westerville Central in a matchup of teams out to strong starts. 

“There are so many schools that are being hit (with COVID-19 issues),” coach Tony Staib said. “We’ve just been sort of communicating via social media and have had to follow the protocols of our quarantine so we can have everybody ready to roll. It’s been sort of like a halftime of our season.” 

The win over St. Charles gave the Lions a 7-0 record that included a 1-0 mark in the OCC-Ohio Division. They opened league action with a 73-20 win over Westland on Dec. 19, the day after the OCC allowed its league schedule to begin. 

Gahanna plays the Cougars again Jan. 22 and has a non-league game Jan. 23 at Thomas Worthington. 

In last year’s postseason, the Lions lost in a Division I district final while Thomas and Central had advanced to a regional semifinal matchup when the season was postponed and ultimately canceled because of the pandemic. 

Gahanna is scheduled to have 15 games completed by the time the district tournament drawing is held Feb. 7. 

Senior wing player Jarius Jones hopes his team quickly gets back on track after what it considered a disappointing performance against St. Charles. 

Junior guard Sean Jones scored 16 points, including making five free throws in the fourth quarter, and Jarius Jones had 14 points. 

“We’re not happy about (the way we played against St. Charles), but a win is a win and (trying to stay undefeated) is our goal,” Jarius Jones said. “We’re always looking toward the next game, but we talked about it in the locker room and everybody needs some improvement. We’re going to figure it out.” 

Both Jarius Jones and junior forward Javan Simmons credit assistant coach Jenisys Battle, a 2015 Gahanna graduate who played for Baldwin Wallace, for providing inspiration. 

“He really just molds us into who we are today,” Simmons said. “If we’re not doing what we’re supposed to do he’s always on our case. We might take it personally, but we know he loves us and he just wants the best for us. He wants us to do well in college but also to prepare us for life.” 

While Sean Jones averaged 16 points and Jarius Jones averaged 12.4 through seven games after being among the team’s leading scorers last season, Simmons has more than doubled his offensive output and was averaging 11.6 points. 

Simmons and senior forward Maceo Williams, who averaged 10.7 points through seven games, provide the inside presence the Lions believe they’ll need in the postseason. 

“I feel like the guys around me trust me a little bit more this year,” Simmons said. “Jarius wants me to rebound but he also wants me to put the ball on the floor. As you can tell, my 3-point shot has developed a little bit more, but Jarius and the other guys expect me to put up 15 points and if I don’t do that, I’m selling my teammates short and selling myself short.” 

Staib is confident his team can hit its stride despite the midseason shutdown. 

“We’ve been very pleased with the start we’ve had this season,” Staib said. “The guys did a good job of following the protocols to avoid COVID and we got off to a great start. This year there’s going to be all kinds of hurdles and roadblocks.” 

Eli Riegler and his teammates in the Gahanna swimming and diving program are tuning up for the Division I postseason after a delayed start to the season.

Swimming teams

get season rolling 

After their season was delayed until late December, the boys and girls swimming and diving teams have been tuning up for a Division I postseason that is expected to begin during the second weekend of February. 

The girls beat Watterson 98-71 and the boys defeated the Eagles 116-42 on Jan. 9 at New Albany. 

Sophomore Marie Belli, who was third in the 200-yard individual medley and fifth in the 100 butterfly at last year’s state meet, won the 200 freestyle (1 minute, 59.3 seconds) and 100 breaststroke (1:06.89) and swam on the winning 200 free relay (1:43.23) with juniors Kendall Hitler and Reagan Reetz and sophomore Stella Brofford. 

Junior Eloise Fisher was first in the 200 IM (2:17.69), junior Sami Kiss was first in the 100 fly (1:01.48), senior Megan Massmann won the 500 free (6:02.92), Reetz won the 100 backstroke (1:01.93) and the 400 free relay of Brofford, Kiss, Reetz and junior Gwyneth Payton also was first (3:45.71). 

While coach Jeff Riegler said he expects heavy competition for spots in girls relays, he knows where his strength lies with the boys squad. 

“The boys team will rely heavily on the seniors,” Riegler said. “Many of our younger swimmers have made big improvements and should improve.” 

Against Watterson, finishing first were junior Morgan Govekar in the 200 IM (2:12.48) and 100 breast (1:09.11), freshman Josh Riegler in the 100 fly (59.97) and 100 back (1:01.91), junior Ethan Krier in the 500 free (5:36.83), the 200 free relay (1:38.48) of Govekar, seniors Caleb Gilger and Nathan Vogelgasang and freshman Eli Riegler and the 400 free relay (3:53.51) of Gilger, Vogelgesang and seniors Nate Foster and Brandon Patrick. 

Bowling squads

out to strong start

The boys and girls bowling teams began the season with one match in late December, and both won their first five matches. 

On Jan. 7, the girls team set a program scoring record in a 2,352-1,361 win over Marysville at HP Lanes as senior Lilu Smith set a program match record with a 506 two-game series. Junior Lindzi Oakman had a 210 average in the match, followed by juniors Tori Richardson (192.5), Addison Watson (182.5), Victoria Birtcher (160.0) and Kaitlyn Mundschenk (155.0). 

Then in a 1,976-1,184 win Jan. 11 over Hilliard Darby at Sawmill Lanes, Mundschenk led with a 178.5 average, freshman Casey Burns averaged 177.0 and Richardson averaged 173.5 as Gahanna improved to 5-0 overall and 4-0 in the COHSBC-B. 

Smith was averaging 213.0 through her first eight games to lead the COHSBC. 

The boys team’s best performance over its first five matches came in a 2,441-1,853 win over Darby on Jan. 11. 

Junior Kevin Foit averaged 254.5 for the match, followed by junior Eddy Pax (216.5), seniors DeAndre Quiero (202.5) and Darrell Firks (200.0) and freshman Jaxson Lealand (145.5). 

Pax was among the COHSBC leaders with a 219.3 average through his first 10 games. 

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek