Starting with their last names and extending directly to the basketball court, the similarities between Phylicia and Taylor Johnson of the Pickerington High School Central girls basketball team are almost impossible to overlook.

Starting with their last names and extending directly to the basketball court, the similarities between Phylicia and Taylor Johnson of the Pickerington High School Central girls basketball team are almost impossible to overlook.

Phylicia, a 5-foot-7 junior, and Taylor, a 5-9 freshman, alternate between point guard and shooting guard. Both have a knack for long-range shooting, but neither shies from contact and, at times, they enjoy playing inside.

One of the differences between the two is their bloodlines. The Johnsons are not related, but hearing about their styles and accomplishments without having watched, maybe one couldn't be blamed for thinking so.

"A lot of our kids are actually all pretty different, except for those two," coach Angelita Forte said. "They're probably more similar than the majority of kids we have."

In a season in which the Tigers have struggled to find a consistently potent offense, Phylicia and Taylor have been dependable in their play.

Phylicia is averaging 7.5 points and has been the team's leading scorer 11 times, including a season-high 16 points in a 67-11 win over Albany Alexander on Dec. 17.

Taylor, who is averaging 4.5 points, had a career-high 12 points in a 50-45 loss to Pickerington North - third in the Division I state poll last week behind Reynoldsburg and Uniontown Lake - on Jan. 24, a game not decided until the final 10 seconds.

As one of three juniors on a team without seniors, Phylicia said she has gradually settled into the leadership role bestowed on her before the season but is trying to better contain her emotions on the court.

"I have those moments where I step up, but I know I can do better at it," she said. "Sometimes it's hard to do that if you're down and everyone depends on you to step up, but it's something you learn to do. I think by the end of the year I will get to the point where my emotions don't bother me as much."

Knowing it is her first year in the spotlight, Forte is willing to give Phylicia some wiggle room.

"It's a mentoring process with me and her as far as getting her to that place of being that one core leader, being emotionless," Forte said. "You have to be that even and steady person and she's getting there. She's learning to control her emotions a little bit better, and I think that's going to be the key to her being even more successful."

Taylor thinks alternating positions has accelerated her acclimation to varsity.

"One- and two-guard are definitely two very different positions," she said. "You have to be able to be a better handler at the point. I'm comfortable with both. Point guard is definitely harder when you're a freshman trying to dribble against faster, quicker guards, but I'm equally comfortable with both."

Central, which is 5-12 overall and 4-7 in the OCC-Ohio Division, recently had a 10-day layoff between games before entering the final quarter of the season. That stretch started with the close loss to North and was followed by a 44-34 loss at Gahanna on Jan. 27. The Tigers play Friday, Feb. 3, at Groveport.

North and Gahanna defeated Central by a combined 79 points in their first meetings, 73-27 on Dec. 9 and 67-34 on Dec. 16, respectively.

The Tigers have played the past month without junior post player Morgan Tomsic, who had to have knee surgery because of an ongoing condition and will miss the rest of the season, Forte said. Some of Tomsic's responsibilities have been turned over to junior post player Alexis Newsome.

"(Newsome) is a taller, athletic post player, so now we can look to lob a little more," Forte said. "She's quicker, so defensively we think she can do a nice job on more athletic opponents."

•The inside depth for North was further depleted when 6-foot-1 sophomore forward Jessie Wachtman sustained a broken left collarbone during a 40-32 loss at Reynoldsburg on Jan. 27.

Wachtman has been a starter for most of the season. She was injured when the Raiders' Alyssa Rice fell on her near the sideline during the second quarter.

Wachtman, who also is a volleyball player, said she expects to be sidelined from sports for about two months.

The Panthers' other inside players currently on varsity are sophomore Brittany Johnson, junior Shannon Egan and sophomore Jordan Toohey. Johnson is a starter.

North's next game is Friday, Feb. 3, at home against Gahanna.