The Pickerington High School North girls basketball team has dealt with its share of adversity this season.

The Pickerington High School North girls basketball team has dealt with its share of adversity this season.

Injuries suffered last month by guard Taylor Jones and post player Paige Stought aside, the Panthers found themselves behind the proverbial eight ball from the onset.

"Our (Division I state finalist girls) soccer team played into the second or third week of November and our volleyball team went deep (into the postseason), too," coach Dave Butcher said. "Some of those girls, well, they're just now starting to play better and find a rhythm.

"Honestly, nothing we've accomplished so far has come easily."

Three December losses, including Watterson's 47-45 upset and a 59-49 setback to Twinsburg in the championship game at the home KeyBank Classic, only added to the anguish.

More recently, the Panthers fell 66-61 in overtime against Chicago Marist on Jan. 17 at the McDonald's Prepland Classic in Chicago, snapping a four-game winning streak. That detracted from a brilliant effort by senior post player Kavunaa Edwards, who scored 22 points and broke Cydnei Stout's school record with 21 rebounds.

Now the Panthers are preparing to revisit what has been the season's low point. They'll play on Friday, Jan. 28, at Reynoldsburg, which rallied from a 36-32 deficit to stun North 52-38 in the first-round OCC-Ohio Division game on Dec. 17.

"Honestly, I think our girls have done a pretty good job reacting to everything and we are improving," Butcher said. "It's not getting any easier, though. We've got a big stretch coming up with (Pickerington) Central (on Jan. 25) and Reynoldsburg. Then we go to Gahanna (on Feb. 3), and we still have to play Newark again, too (in the regular-season finale on Feb. 12)."

The Raiders were 9-0 in the OCC-Ohio and alone in first place before playing Jan. 25 at Newark. They own a two-game winning streak against North, which was 8-1 in the league before playing Central.

The Raiders also prevailed 45-34 in a Division I regional final last season as they defeated a Butcher-coached team for the first time.

"They've got two big post kids (in Destini Cooper and Alyssa Rice) and not a lot of teams in our league have that," Butcher said. "They've had some perimeter kids (including senior point guard Kacia Grant) step up, too. They're solid inside and out."

Rice, a 6-foot-2 freshman, scored all 10 of her points during the fourth quarter in the first meeting as the Raiders outscored North 20-2 over the final eight minutes. The Raiders, who were led by Aliyah Zantt's 19 points, also start three sophomores, including Cooper. Youth is relative, however. Cooper, for example, already has more than 40 career starts.

"(Almost) everybody on our team got the tournament experience last year," Reynoldsburg coach Jack Purtell said. "Destini, Yamonie (Jenkins) and Aliyah Zantt either came off the bench, started or played a lot."

"Our players all play on high-level AAU teams as well, so it's just (been) a matter of getting the young kids used to playing at this level and playing against older kids."

They'll be facing a pair of locked in seniors in Edwards and North's Shelby Olszewski.

Edwards was averaging 18.1 points and 9.3 rebounds before Jan. 25, and she scored 19 or more points in 10 consecutive games after totaling just six in the loss to Watterson. She scored 21 or more points in seven of those games, including a season-high 31 in a 90-15 victory over Warrensville Heights on Dec. 28.

Olszewski was averaging 12.1 points and 5.0 assists before Jan. 25. Until scoring just two points in a 71-32 victory over Groveport on Jan. 21, she had enjoyed a torrid four-game stretch in which she averaged 19 points with a combined 17 3-pointers.

"That's the big thing when you lose a couple of kids; someone else has to make up that ground," Butcher said. "Shelby and Kavunaa and some of the others are doing that."

AT A GLANCE

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

CENTRAL

*Jan. 13 - Lost to Reynoldsburg 57-42

Jan. 15 - Defeated Dublin Scioto 54-45 at home All-Ohio Prep Girls Shootout. Katie Stevens made four 3-pointers and had 13 points to lead the Tigers, who outscored the Irish 26-14 in the second half.

Jan. 17 - Def. Parma Heights Holy Name 37-30 at All-Ohio Prep Girls Shootout. The Tigers, who finished 4-2 in non-league games during the regular season, gave up no second-quarter points and led 17-5 at the half. Marley Hill, Stevens and Jasmine Henshaw scored eight points each.

*Jan. 21 - Def. Lancaster 62-48. Henshaw and Hill had 17 points apiece to lead the Tigers, who also got 14 from Stevens. They outscored the Gales 23-8 in the second quarter to pull ahead 31-17 while posting their fifth victory in six games.

*Jan. 25 - Played Pickerington North

*Jan. 28 - Home vs. Gahanna. The Tigers dropped the first-round game 51-45 on Dec. 17.

Of note: The Tigers were 8-7 overall and 4-5 in the OCC-Ohio before Jan. 25.

NORTH

*Jan. 13 - Def. Grove City 83-38. Kavunaa Edwards scored 21 points.

Jan. 15 - Def. Geneva (Ill.) 69-58 at McDonald's Prepland Classic in Chicago. Shelby Olszewski scored a season-high 24 points behind five 3-pointers.

Jan. 17 - Lost to Chicago Marist 66-61 (OT) at McDonald's Prepland Classic. Edwards scored 22 points to lead the Panthers, who split six non-league games this season. Olszewski had 14 points with three 3-pointers.

*Jan. 21 - Def. Groveport 71-32. Edwards scored 21 points and Christy Macioce matched her season-high with 17.

*Jan. 25 - Played Central

*Jan. 28 - At Reynoldsburg. The Panthers lost the first-round game 52-38 on Dec. 17.

Of note: The Panthers were 11-4 overall and 8-1 in the OCC-Ohio before Jan. 25.

*OCC-Ohio game