The Pickerington High School North boys basketball team had little choice but to slow things down and match the pace set by Reynoldsburg during last Friday's 46-40 home OCC-Ohio Division victory.

The Pickerington High School North boys basketball team had little choice but to slow things down and match the pace set by Reynoldsburg during last Friday's 46-40 home OCC-Ohio Division victory.

"They did a good job controlling the tempo; they made us play their way," coach Pete Liptrap said afterward. "But in the last four minutes we played our best basketball of the night. We hit our foul shots and rebounded enough to pull out a tough victory."

In their previous league game, the Panthers were confronted by a much faster opponent while winning 71-45 on Dec. 10 at Pickerington Central, which was intent on running the floor as often as possible. That worked for awhile. The game was tied 15-all in the second quarter before North all but stopped the Tigers in their tracks by deploying a 1-2-2 half-court trap that keyed a 12-0 run. The Panthers led 31-19 at the half and never looked back.

"There are a lot of different styles in our league," senior point guard Tyler Kelly said. "So you have to be prepared to play a different way or be able to make some pretty quick adjustments. Our coaching staff has done a great job recognizing that and what we need to do."

North's fast start has been keyed in part by its ability to adapt defensively even though Liptrap prefers a man-to-man approach more often than not. The Panthers were giving up an average of just 37.2 points through five games. They lowered that number to 34 in three league contests, which included a 74-17 win on Dec. 7 at Groveport.

"We know every night presents a different challenge in our league," Liptrap said. "Quality teams can play at different speeds, and we hope to be one of those kinds of teams."

The Panthers likely will get few chances to take a collective breath Monday at home against Walnut Ridge in a non-league game.

The Scots, who have won three consecutive games following a 68-52 loss in their Dec. 10 season-opener against Huntington (W.Va.), are athletic and like to push the issue offensively. They also have one of the biggest lineups North will face this season with eight players 6-foot-3 or taller, including Wisconsin football recruit Austin Traylor.

Liptrap said he plans to bring the Panthers in today for a full practice. They'll get in another hour or so of work on Christmas Eve and return to the gym Sunday to finalize preparations.

"We always go right after Christmas with the girls tournament being played at our school," Liptrap said of the KeyBank Holiday Classic, which runs Tuesday-Dec. 30. "So it's tough giving the kids much time off.

"Last year we came out and didn't play well against St. Charles (and lost 51-36) playing on a Sunday right after Christmas. Hopefully, we'll avoid that this year with a more senior-oriented team."

At a glance

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

CENTRAL

*Last Friday - Lost to Gahanna 78-53. Caris Levert and Kris Strange scored 11 points each for the Tigers.

*Last Tuesday - Played Groveport

Dec. 30 - Home vs. Canal Winchester. Before playing Bloom-Carroll last Tuesday, the Indians had won four consecutive games since losing 50-31 to Pickerington North in their season opener.

Of note: The Tigers were 1-3 overall and 1-2 in the OCC-Ohio before last Tuesday.

NORTH

*Last Friday - Defeated Reynoldsburg 46-40. Tyler Kelly scored 14 points and Justin Zielinski added 11 to lead the Panthers, who made 9 of 13 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter. The game was tied at 39 after three quarters.

*Last Wednesday - Played Gahanna

Monday - Home vs. Walnut Ridge. The Scots, who will be playing their first game since beating Independence 81-59 on Dec. 17, are 3-1 overall. Austin Traylor, a forward who has committed to play football at Wisconsin, is the top scorer at 20.8 points per game.

Of note: The Tigers were 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Ohio before last Wednesday.

*OCC-Ohio game