If Zach Beaver of the Pickerington High School Central boys basketball team had his way, he might not be - to borrow a term from the sport he hopes to play at the next level - a "utility man."

If Zach Beaver of the Pickerington High School Central boys basketball team had his way, he might not be - to borrow a term from the sport he hopes to play at the next level - a "utility man."

But Beaver, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior who played shooting guard and small forward last season and now plays everything except point guard, isn't about to tinker with the team's chemistry even though the Tigers are coming off their first loss.

Central dropped to 14-1 overall with a 66-65 overtime loss to Cleveland St. Ignatius in the Dunk 4 Diabetes Shootout on Jan. 29 at Walsh University in North Canton. The Tigers are 9-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division, however.

"We have a lot of different talent and a lot more talent than we did last year," Beaver said. "Wherever I play, I'm going to play hard. I'll work for my role on the team, whatever it is."

When coach Jerry Francis opted to shift his starting lineup because a handful of players were late to a shoot-around, Beaver benefited. He made his first start of the season Jan. 24, when the Tigers defeated Pickerington North 63-44. He scored only five points, but Francis lauded how Beaver stepped up to the challenge not just that night, but the entire year.

"Beaver had that senior leadership we were looking for and he was able to hold it down," Francis said. "We got through the first (quarter, after which North led 16-11) with great intensity and in the second (quarter) we were able to get that lead, then pad it a little bit (with a 21-6 fourth-quarter advantage) and continue our winning ways.

"I'm proud of Zach and what he was able to do."

Beaver is averaging 4.3 points, having scored a season-high 11 in a 66-58 win over Canal Winchester on Dec. 30. A tight end in football, he was one of nine senior starters on the Tigers' football team that lost 34-13 to St. Ignatius in the Division I state championship game on Dec. 3 at Fawcett Stadium in Canton.

Central's win over North was its first game in 11 days. It was succeeded by a 60-46 home win over Gahanna on Jan. 27 before the loss to St. Ignatius.

"We beat up on each other (in practice before the North game), but we ended up getting a chance to rest our legs," Francis said. "We brought them in on Sunday and switched up our routine. I always tell guys to expect the unexpected, so we were able to handle that and get back to our winning ways and hopefully stay on course the rest of the season."

Central didn't trail St. Ignatius until two minutes into overtime, when the Wildcats took a 62-60 lead. Connor Kern hit a 3-pointer with 48 seconds to play that gave the Tigers a 65-64 lead, but St. Ignatius' Francisco Santiago hit the winning shot from 10 feet over Beaver with less than three seconds to play.

Now, the Tigers' focus turns to winning the league. That quest continues Friday, Feb. 3, at home against Groveport and Tuesday, Feb. 7, at Newark.

Entering this week, Newark was second in the OCC-Ohio at 8-2.

"We're athletic and we're tough. We just want to stay hungry and humble," senior guard Caris LeVert said. "We've had to work for it. We've had to work for it since last year and we can see ourselves becoming closer and learning what others do well on the court."