WESTERVILLE, Ohio -- It was only a matter of time until Gahanna was challenged in the tournament.
After the top-seeded Lions won their four district playoff contests by an average of 31 points, Gahanna received a blow-for-blow challenge from Olentangy Liberty and escaped with a 47-39 victory in Thursday's regional semifinal at Westerville South.
In a game that featured multiple lead changes in the first three periods, Gahanna took a one-point lead into the fourth.
Momentum took a huge swing in the Lions favor just under two minutes when Gahanna junior Javan Simmons finished a breakaway dunk with thunderous effort as he drew the foul and converted a three-point play.
Patriots senior Henry Hinkle would respond on the next play with a confident step-back three to cut the Patriots deficit 42-39.
Yet the Lions would hold Liberty scoreless in the final 80 seconds and converted five of six free throws to hold off a valiant Patriots effort.
It took a complete team-effort for the Lions to advance.
Junior Sean Jones led all scorers with 16 points. Despite not his best game from the field, the star lead guard stayed aggressive. His fourth-quarter play stood out with a late-game assist to junior Brendan Raymond for three followed by his perfect four-for-four free throw attempts.
Maceo Williams, the lone senior in the starting lineup, played an excellent and determined performance. He had 14 points off seven made field goal attempts and was a constant threat in the defensive post.
Junior Javan Simmons added eight points, while fellow junior Eljae Deas had only two, but made a huge impact with his three assists and stellar defensive play, which included two forced turnovers late in the fourth.
Similar to Gahanna, Olentangy Liberty had an excellent all-around team effort.
Junior Cooper Davis led team scorers with 13 points and six rebounds.
Seniors Henry Hinkle and Andrew Wade finished their accomplished Patriots career with 11 and five points, respectively. Wade was especially a force on the boards and defense, as he made Gahanna's talented post duo of Simmons and Williams earn their production.
The Lions move on to the regional finals and will play the winner of #2 Westerville Central on Saturday at 1pm at Westerville South.