Gahanna Lincoln Roundup: Lions girls bowlers revel in latest state title
The confidence the Gahanna Lincoln girls bowling team built the past few seasons rarely wavered this winter.
After capturing their second Division I state championship in three seasons in 2020, the Lions returned five of their top seven bowlers, including one of the area’s best in senior Lilu Smith.
Gahanna proved to be just as dominant amid high expectations, going 11-0 overall and finishing 10-0 in the COHSBC-B Division to extend its streak of consecutive league victories to 74.
During the postseason, the only adversity the Lions faced was during the championship round at state when they trailed eighth-seeded Cincinnati Mercy McCauley 2-1 in a quarterfinal as the No. 1 seed before rallying to win 3-2 to advance to a semifinal.
The Lions were in control throughout their final two matches, including when they beat sixth-seeded Beavercreek 3-1 to capture another state title.
“(Our past success) kind of worked to our favor because everybody has been kind of scared of us,” junior Lindzi Oakman said. “There was that nervous factor that we were able to put onto other people and it worked well for us.
“We’ve worked really hard. We’ve practiced so much this season and it just means a lot. It’s my second (state title) and Lilu’s third. We have four juniors and it’s been amazing to be with them. I love them.”
Smith, who was a key player as a freshman when Gahanna won its first title, averaged 221.8 per game to lead the COHSBC in regular-season average.
Then in the postseason, Smith led the Lions with a fourth-place finish (589) at sectional Feb. 17 at HP Lanes as her team finished second. She then was sixth (583) to help Gahanna win district Feb. 22 at the same site.
At state, the Lions rolled a 3,263 to lead the qualifying round as Smith was ninth (578) and Oakman was 10th (573) as both earned second-team all-state honors.
“It’s great,” Smith said. “Our teamwork, our positivity and our attitude (were key). Even if we had a bad game in bakers, we were able to bounce back. They’re a good group of girls, very funny and with good characteristics to them. They’ve all been here before and knew what to expect. It’s nice that we got it done.”
Also during the qualifying round at state, junior Tori Richardson was 21st (542), junior Addison Watson was 43rd (500), junior Kaitlyn Mundschenk bowled two games and freshman Casey Burns bowled one game.
The Lions bowled a 3,938 at district as Oakman was third (613), Richardson placed fourth (604), Watson finished eighth (570) and Mundschenk was 22nd (516).
In the regular season, Richardson finished sixth in the COHSBC in average at 183.5, Oakman was seventh (178.4) and Watson was ninth (174.9)
“It’s an amazing feeling,” coach Yvonne Quiero said. “It doesn’t take all first-team bowlers to win a state title. These girls work really, really well together. I’m going to be sad to see Lilu go, but they all work really hard.”
Boys basketball team
wins district title
With a 77-41 victory over 10th-seeded Reynoldsburg on March 6, the top-seeded and host boys basketball team captured the fifth Division I district championship in 19 seasons under coach Tony Staib and its first since 2016.
The Lions, who made their only previous state appearance in 2010, beat Olentangy Liberty 47-39 on March 11 in a regional semifinal at Westerville South to improve to 22-2.
Gahanna played Westerville Central for the regional title March 13 at South, with the winner moving on to play in a state semifinal at 8 p.m. March 20 at the University of Dayton. The state championship game is 8:30 p.m. March 21 at the same site.
Gahanna lost to Walnut Ridge 52-47 in a district final last season.
“Our players were really focused,” Staib said. “We had three good days of practice and I think this group remembers the heartache of last year where we made it to this point and lost a close one. There’s just a group mentality to get it done this year.”
The Lions, who beat 18th-seeded Northland 67-45 on March 3 in a district semifinal, led Reynoldsburg 24-7 after one quarter in what was a rematch of their 64-50 victory Feb. 2.
In the tournament win, junior guard Sean Jones had 21 points, junior forward Javan Simmons scored 16 and senior forward Maceo Williams added 15.
Junior guard Eljae Deas hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored all eight of his points in the first quarter.
“We’re a good shooting team,” Staib said. “The last couple games (before the district final) we (had) been in a little funk and it all clicked. We knew coming in that we could use (Reynoldsburg’s lack of) size to our advantage. I thought our guys did a good job and that our guards did a good job of getting it inside.”
•Record: 11-0 overall
•League finishes: First (10-0) in COHSBC-B, first (4-0) in OCC-Central
•Senior lost: Lilu Smith
•Key returnees: Casey Burns, Kaitlyn Mundschenk, Lindzi Oakman, Tori Richardson and Addison Watson
•Postseason: Second (3,505) at sectional behind Jonathan Alder (3,580), first (3,938) at district, first (3,263) in state qualifying round; defeated Cincinnati Mercy McCauley 3-1, def. Hillsboro 3-1, def. Beavercreek 3-1 in state championship round