Coach Dave Butcher of the Pickerington High School North girls basketball team earned the 600th victory of his career last Friday in a setting in which his teams have done a lot of damage the last 26 seasons, the Division I district tournament.

Coach Dave Butcher of the Pickerington High School North girls basketball team earned the 600th victory of his career last Friday in a setting in which his teams have done a lot of damage the last 26 seasons, the Division I district tournament.

Sixth-seeded North beat Watkins Memorial 66-15 in the first round and will play Briggs today at Harvest Prep.

Entering last Tuesday, Butcher trailed Karen Wittrock of Rocky River Lutheran with 648, Ed Zink of Bearvercreek with 631 and Jerry Sigler of Sylvania Northview with 601. Wittrock is retired.

"When I first started, girls, I thought, it would be a quick shortcut to a varsity boys job," said Butcher, who has guided teams to six state titles. "We got out of the chute well and won a lot of games early."

Whether it has been a rebuilding season or the opening of a second school in the district -- Butcher moved from Pickerington to North when North opened in 2003 -- Butcher's teams remained winners.

"Typically, if you've got one good group of girls who could play early, they would play for four years and that'd be a great team," he said. "We've been able to consistently win league and district titles group after group. Maybe we don't play at as high of a level as we did seven or eight years ago as the split and parity made a big difference, but the kids hung with us."

This season has not been entirely smooth sailing. The Panthers lost two games at the Kroger Holiday Classic and both regular-season meetings with Pickerington Central.

North rebounded and has won 11 of its last 12 games. The Panthers look to give Butcher his 21st consecutive district title. First, win No. 600 had to come, and that was a surprise to some.

"I didn't know it was his 600th," Kavunaa Edwards said. "It's exciting."

Butcher's 500th victory also came in the district tournament as the Panthers beat Upper Arlington 64-33 in a district final in 2004.

"We wanted to thank him for all the hard work he's done," Brittany Gamby said. "This is our way of thanking him for that."

Butcher was grateful he earned the milestone win with this group.

"They're always smiling, loosey-goosey and having a good time," he said. "I've never had a team like this. We've stumbled early but fought back, and that's been a trademark of our teams since we've been at North. The kids have responded and I'm extremely proud of them."

Briggs has not played a game since Feb. 6 when it beat South 75-20 to finish the regular season 7-11. Briggs has improved its record by two victories this season under first-year coach Norman Zavitz. The last two seasons, Zavitz was an assistant in football.

Timika Williams, the team's only senior, leads the Bruins in scoring average (18.2 points).

The winner will advance to a district semifinal Tuesday at Olentangy Orange against second-seeded Delaware or Thomas Worthington. The district final is March 7 at Orange, with a possible opponent being fourth-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley. Before last Wednesday, Delaware and Tri-Valley were undefeated.

"We're taking one game at a time, but of course we have Delaware and Tri-Valley in the backs of our minds," Gamby said.

•After Central played five games in a 12-day stretch to close the regular season, the Division I district tournament has offered the Tigers a chance to slow things down.

Fifth-seeded Central beat West 82-22 in the first round Feb. 18 and played Mount Vernon in the second round last Wednesday.

"It's tough, no doubt, playing week to week," coach Wade Brockwell said. "We went through a tough stretch with some emotional games and some back-to-back games. This gives us a chance to refocus and get some rest."

The winner last Wednesday advanced to a district semifinal Monday at Orange against 12th-seeded Brookhaven or Logan.

Brockwell has cut back on the length of some practices and focus on the little things that could prove big in the postseason. Entering the tournament, Emilee Harmon was among the area leaders in scoring average (19.7). She scored 22 points in a 68-62 win over Grove City on Feb. 12.

"We played extremely well in that Grove City game," Brockwell said. "We're shooting the ball well and we've been trying to focus on being able to play in the half court to get ourselves prepared to go deep in the tournament."

At a glance

Below are recent results and coming schedules for the Central and North girls basketball teams:

CENTRAL

Feb. 18 -- Defeated West 82-22 in first round of Division I district tournament

Last Wednesday -- Played Mount Vernon in second round. The winner will play 12th-seeded Brookhaven or Logan in a district semifinal Monday at Olentangy Orange. The district final is March 7. Central is seeded fifth.

Of note: The Tigers were 16-5 before last Wednesday.

NORTH

Last Friday -- Def. Watkins Memorial 66-15 in first round of Division I district tournament. Brittney Callahan scored 16 points.

Today -- At Harvest Prep vs. Briggs in second round. The winner will play Thomas Worthington or second-seeded Delaware in a district semifinal Tuesday at Orange. The district final is March 7. North is seeded sixth.

Of note: The Panthers are 17-4.