Gahanna Lincoln Roundup: Lions boys basketball team showing resiliency

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Senior forward Maceo Williams has been a key contributor for the Gahanna boys basketball team, which won 15 of its first 17 games and earned the top seed for the Division I district tournament.

Throughout a season in which the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has continued to alter schedules and plans, every day has felt like being “on pins and needles” to Gahanna Lincoln boys basketball coach Tony Staib. 

The Lions had a two-week quarantine in mid-January and seemed to endure the situation well, beating Westerville Central 56-55 on Jan. 20 in their first game back. 

Three days later, however, Gahanna was blown out by Thomas Worthington 75-49 for its first loss. 

“I’ve liked the way we’ve bounced back, but I tell you what, you look at the teams that have gone through a COVID shutdown, we were down for 14 days and it comes back to bite you,” Staib said. “It may not hit you the first game or second game. We didn’t do anything for 14 days and we came back and practiced for two days and gutted out a great win against Westerville Central, so we’re thinking, ‘Oh, it didn’t affect us,’ but we saw it. We had to go back to the drawing board. We’re still not where we need to be, but we’re getting there.” 

Senior forward Maceo Williams had a personal bout with the virus earlier this winter, with Thomas being his first game back. 

“I expected it to be worse coming back, but just doing a simple jog, I was out of breath,” Williams said. “The recovery has gone well. I just did a lot of basketball drills because I couldn’t do up-and-down stuff with the team.” 

With a seven-player rotation that has been led by junior guard Sean Jones, the Lions improved to 15-2 overall with an 80-51 win over Linden-McKinley on Feb. 10. Jones entered that game needing 14 points to reach 1,000 for his career and finished with 19 to become the sixth player in program history to achieve the milestone. 

Gahanna was 7-1 in the OCC-Ohio after beating New Albany 57-41 on Feb. 6, the day after it lost to Westerville Central 65-64 for its first league loss.

Central also lost to Pickerington North 51-50 on Jan. 22 to keep the league title race tight. 

The Lions close the league schedule Feb. 19 at home against North, which it beat 62-59 on Jan. 30. 

After being a district runner-up last season, Gahanna earned the top seed for the Division I district tournament and will open Feb. 23 at home against 49th-seeded Whetstone. With a win, the Lions will play host to 46th-seeded Central Crossing on Feb. 26 in the second round. 

Gahanna won its next four games after losing to Thomas. 

“We’ve responded well,” Williams said. “That was my first night back and I think we weren’t prepared for them at all, but I told the guys (we have to) forget about that game and come back and take all the anger out on other teams. We could see them again in the playoffs and I’m pretty sure it’ll be a different story if we have time to prepare for them. 

“I like this team’s energy. This is probably the best team I’ve been with. There’s no jealousy on the team. We love each other and feed off each other’s energy.” 

While Jones was averaging 15.5 points through 16 games, Williams and junior forward Javan Simmons both were averaging 11.5 and senior guard Jarius Jones was averaging 12. 

“What this team really has is just versatility,” Staib said. 

Ethan Brehm and Gahanna open the district tournament Feb. 20 against Worthington Kilbourne at OhioHealth Ice Haus.

Hockey team set

for district tourney 

After losing five in a row in late January, the hockey team won three of its next four and then beat Troy 4-1 on Feb. 7 in its regular-season finale. 

The Lions lost 7-2 to Olentangy on Feb. 6 to end their hopes of earning a first-place tie with the Braves and Watterson in the CHC-Blue, but their recent strong play is proof of the continued strides they’ve made under fourth-year coach Kevin Schodorf. 

Gahanna is the 17th seed for the district tournament and opens the postseason Feb. 20 against 20th-seeded Worthington Kilbourne at OhioHealth Ice Haus.

Schodorf believed his team had “as good of a chance as any” to win the Blue Jackets Cup consolation bracket, which began with Gahanna playing Watterson on Feb. 10 at Chiller Ice Works. 

The 15th-seeded Lions, however, lost to 14th-seeded Watterson 6-2 to drop to 13-12 overall. They went 9-7 in the CHC.

Against Troy, the Lions got one goal apiece from senior forward Thomas Giles, senior defensemen Ashwin Kumar and John Warner and freshman forward Isaac Stanley. They finished with 39 shots on goal, with junior forward Ethan Brehm having six attempts. 

Freshman goalie Deke Travers was 10-10 through 24 games. 

Senior forward Colton Heery, junior forward Rohan Schmidt and freshman forwards Toni Dejanov and Nate Highland also have been among the team’s top players. 

“Our goalie, Deke Travers, has been outstanding in net,” Schodorf said. “Two freshmen that are playing on our first line, Nate Highland and Toni Dejanov, have been playing key minutes for us at forward and have been staples on our power-play and penalty-killing lines.” 

Girls basketball team 

wins league title 

After losing 73-31 to Reynoldsburg on Feb. 2, the girls basketball team beat Westerville Central 53-17 on Feb. 5 to improve to 11-5 overall and clinch at least a share of the OCC-Ohio title. 

The Lions then captured the league title outright at 9-0 when they beat Pickerington North 53-44 on Feb. 10. 

On Feb. 16, sixth-seeded Gahanna opened the Division I district tournament at home against 33rd-seeded Mount Vernon. The winner plays 28th-seeded Thomas in a second-round contest Feb. 19 at the home of the better seed. 

If it wins its first two tournament games, Gahanna would face 16th-seeded Marysville or 24th-seeded Grove City on Feb. 24 in a district semifinal. 

The Lions are the second-highest seed in their bracket behind No. 2 Dublin Coffman, which they lost to 67-62 on Dec. 18 but beat in a district semifinal in 2019 and in a district final last season. 

“It’s a fun matchup if we get back to that game,” coach Ron Bailey said. “(Coffman’s Adam Banks) is a great coach and he’s got a great group. I respect what he’s doing with his girls.” 

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek