Pickerington High School North girls basketball coach Dave Butcher found himself in an odd position during the Division I district tournament draw Feb. 3 at Gahanna.
He listened to eight teams select their spots in the bracket before the Panthers, who are seeded ninth of 43 teams, were called. By then, Butcher was faced with a "pick your poison" choice as far as which of the top three seeds to face at some point -- Reynoldsburg, Gahanna or Olentangy Orange.
"You go into the nine-hole, which we haven't been in often in my entire life, we really only had a couple places to go," Butcher said. "When we draw, we draw to see honestly what we think is the best path to get to the regional. We didn't take the best path to get to the district final. We'll try to advance."
North, which is 14-8 overall, will play host to 37th-seeded Marion-Franklin in the first round at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14. The winner will play sixth-seeded Westerville North or 36th-seeded Worthington Kilbourne in the second round at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the home of the higher seed.
The Panthers did not play Marion-Franklin, Westerville North or Kilbourne during the regular season.
The second-round winner will play seventh-seeded Olentangy, 21st-seeded Mount Vernon, 25th-seeded Westerville Central or 34th-seeded Hilliard Darby in a district semifinal at 8 p.m. Feb. 28 at Jonathan Alder.
Pickerington North likely would face second-seeded Gahanna in a district final March 2 at Jonathan Alder. The Lions ended Butcher's string of 23 consecutive district championships a year ago, beating North 63-46 in a district final.
The Panthers defeated Gahanna 51-48 on Feb. 8 in the OCC-Ohio Division and regular-season finale for both teams. Junior forward Brittany Johnson had a game-high 20 points and was 8-for-9 at the foul line to lead North, and senior guard Christy Macioce added 16 points.
This season represents the lowest the Panthers have been seeded in the district tournament in their 10-year history. The previous low was seventh in 2006.
"We'll have to play three extremely difficult games and that's not something you like to do, but we put ourselves in that situation," Butcher said.
Marion-Franklin is 8-13 overall and finished 6-8 in the City League-South. Top players for the Red Devils include forward Janayla Byrd and guard Naomi Woodson-Levey. Entering the week, Westerville North and Kilbourne were 20-1 and 5-16, respectively.
The Panthers tied Pickerington Central for third in the OCC-Ohio at 9-5, behind Reynoldsburg (14-0) and Gahanna (11-3) and ahead of Newark (6-8), Lancaster (5-9), Grove City (2-12) and Groveport (0-14).
Tigers prepare to face Golden Bears
Central coach James Stutzman said a first-round Division I district tournament home game against Upper Arlington at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, bears some intrigue because the teams are similar.
The Tigers are seeded 10th and the Golden Bears are seeded 23rd.
"Like us, they have quite a few girls who have been their leading scorer from time to time, and then a lot of players who are capable of pitching in 10 points a game or so," Stutzman said. "The thing that really jumps out to me is they shoot a lot of (3-pointers) and make a lot of them. They can make a lot of them quickly and really change the pace of a game. We have a few teams in our league like that so it's not totally new to us, but they have a big-body freshman girl (Kortney Eisenman) inside and she can present some problems for us."
Central, which is 16-6 overall, defeated Groveport 66-19 in its OCC-Ohio and regular-season finale Feb. 8. Senior guard Phylicia Johnson and junior forward Allie Luther each had 11 points and junior guard Amari Hawkins scored 10 for the Tigers, who held Groveport to four points in the first quarter and five in each of the next three quarters.
"Excited is an understatement for us right now," Johnson said. "We're more confident every game and we're playing hard. Last year (when Central went 7-14, losing to Central Crossing 30-25 in the first round of the district tournament), the next game was always just another game. This year, we feel like we're getting better with every win. We're making smarter decisions and taking better shots."
UA is 11-11 overall and finished 8-6 in the OCC-Central. The Bears are led by forward Andi Norman (14.3 points per game), guards Chiara Paradiso (5.8) and Annika Wachtman (5.5) and Eiseman (4.9).
The first-round winner plays host to 29th-seeded Westerville South in the second round at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20.
That winner will play eighth-seeded Hilliard Davidson, 14th-seeded Newark, 28th-seeded Canal Winchester or 33rd-seeded Walnut Ridge in a district semifinal Feb. 28 at Bloom-Carroll.
Central did not play UA or Westerville South during the regular season.
"We had a nice seed, but not quite good enough," Stutzman said.
"It's a pick-your-poison sort of stop with regard to the top teams. We just placed ourselves in a spot where we thought we'd have a chance to win a couple games."