Smiles were abundant after the Pickerington High School Central boys basketball team concluded the regular season by defeating Reynoldsburg 73-56 on Feb. 18.

Smiles were abundant after the Pickerington High School Central boys basketball team concluded the regular season by defeating Reynoldsburg 73-56 on Feb. 18.

"I'm real proud of our boys to play like that in the last home game," first-year coach Jerry Francis said.

Leading just 24-23, the Tigers outscored the Raiders 19-9 during the third quarter and 39-23 in the second half. They put the exclamation point on their second victory this season over the Raiders when Connor Kern launched a pass nearly the length of the court and found Caris Levert open at the other end for an uncontested layup in the waning moments.

Central, which improved to 10-10 overall and finished 8-6 in the OCC-Ohio Division to tie Newark for third place, also defeated Reynoldsburg 50-46 on Jan. 14.

"This was huge for us going into the tournament," Levert said.

Levert, a junior guard, scored 17 of his career-high 28 points during the first half for the Tigers, who played 11th-seeded Marion-Franklin in the first round of the Division I district tournament on Feb. 22.

Levert knocked down three 3-pointers against Reynoldsburg, but was more effective penetrating the lane in the second half.

Jae'sean Tate contributed 10 points while Manny Harrison, one of two seniors on the roster, added nine.

"Things opened up in the second half and I got to the rim more," Levert said. "They played a little zone on us in the first half and I was able to hit some deep balls."

The Tigers posted their second win in three games and eighth victory since Jan. 7 after starting 2-5.

They won their final two OCC-Ohio games, which included a 54-42 victory Feb. 11 at Grove City, and went 6-3 over the last nine.

Also playing at home for the final time was senior Jacob Flora, and a boisterous student cheering section swarmed him and the other players after the final horn.

"It's been a real good night," Francis said.

With a first-round victory, the Tigers would play either Independence or the Raiders in the second round at Worthington Christian Middle School on Friday, Feb. 25. The 76ers went 12-8 during the regular season while Reynoldsburg was 8-12.

The second-round winner will play in a district semifinal against Lancaster, Watkins Memorial or top-seeded Westerville South at 10 a.m. March 5 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.

North coach Pete Liptrap showed up to watch the school's girls team play a first-round postseason game Feb. 17 at Hamilton Township, where his fifth-seeded Panthers opened the Division I district tournament by playing Central Crossing on Feb. 23. He was planning a similar trip to Heath, where a first-round victory would have his team playing either Dublin Scioto or Teays Valley in the second round on Saturday, Feb. 26.

The Irish went 8-12 during the regular season while the Vikings were 15-5.

"I like to get a lay of the land," Liptrap said. "In the past, we've always played the first two rounds at the same place. Both of these gyms are new to us, so I'm just trying to get a feel for them."

The second-round winner advances to play eighth-seeded New Albany, Newark or Worthington Kilbourne in a district semifinal at 11:45 a.m. March 5 at the Fairgrounds.

The Panthers secured a share of the OCC-Ohio title at 13-1 by defeating Grove City 64-43 in their regular-season finale on Feb. 18, improving to 19-1 overall behind a 14th consecutive win. Gahanna also finished 13-1 in the OCC-Ohio.

Rounding out the standings, Reynoldsburg finished fifth at 7-7 and was followed by Grove City (5-9), Lancaster (1-13) and Groveport (1-13).

North's league championship is its first since winning the OCC-Capital in 2005-06.

AT A GLANCE

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

CENTRAL

Feb. 15 - Lost to Chillicothe 69-47

*Feb. 18 - Defeated Reynoldsburg 73-56. Caris Levert had a career-high 28 points in the regular-season finale to lead the Tigers, who outscored the Raiders 39-23 in the second half.

Feb. 22 - Played Marion-Franklin in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays Independence or Reynoldsburg in second round, 8 p.m. Feb. 25 at Worthington Christian Middle School. The 25th-seeded Tigers did not play Independence during the regular season. They swept the Raiders, also prevailing 50-46 on Jan. 14.

Of note: The Tigers were 10-10 overall before Feb. 22 and went 8-6 in the OCC-Ohio to tie Newark for third place.

NORTH

*Feb. 18 - Def. Grove City 64-43. Tyler Kelly scored 17 points, Trent Waybright had 13 and Evan Mills added 10 as the Panthers won their regular-season finale to push their winning streak to 14 games.

Feb. 23 - Played Central Crossing in first round of the Division I district tournament. Winner plays Teays Valley or Dublin Scioto in second round, 8 p.m. Feb. 26 at Heath. The fifth-seeded Panthers didn't play either team in the regular season.

Of note: The Panthers were 19-1 overall before Feb. 23 and went 13-1 in the OCC-Ohio to share the title with Gahanna.

*OCC-Ohio game