There wasn't much suspense in the Pickerington High School North girls basketball team's 83-18 win over Marion-Franklin in a Division I district tournament first-round game Feb. 14.
The ninth-seeded Panthers led 10-0 just more than three minutes into the game, 45-11 at halftime and shut out the Red Devils 21-0 in the third quarter.
As coaches, players and fans filed out of the school, they probably had little or no idea they had witnessed history.
About 100 miles to the southwest at approximately the same time as North's game, Lebanon defeated Beavercreek 48-47 in the first round of the Division I Southwest District tournament. That ended the Beavers' season at 12-11, but more importantly to the Panthers, it allowed coach Dave Butcher to pass Beavercreek's Ed Zink as the state's all-time leader in wins.
Butcher entered the week 684-87 in 30 seasons at North and Pickerington. Zink finished the season, his 37th, at 683-205.
"I've been fortunate to receive some honors, which are great, but this one is sort of special," said Butcher, who won 23 consecutive Division I district championships from 1989-2011 and six Division I state championships at Pickerington before moving to North in 2003. "We've had a lot of great teams and you share that with those teams from 30 years ago all the way up to now. We've been fortunate to have great talent. The kids have been special and it's something neat. Whether it lasts or not, it's nice to sort of reach the pinnacle in this state and still have a pretty good winning percentage."
Sophomore guard Aubrey Lukascko credited Butcher for giving her and others who came up through North's program a better understanding of playing at a high level.
"My whole younger years, I've been preparing for high school ball," she said. "I know what it takes to get to the next level, and coach Butcher has done nothing but help me get to that level."
Butcher, in turn, deflected credit to a group of assistant coaches that for 22 seasons included Keith Ebright and also has featured Ken Schneider, who succeeded Butcher at now-Pickerington Central, as well as Cliff Sawyer and former Tigers players Marscilla Packer and Michelle Shade Sawyer.
"It's a shared honor," Butcher said. "It's nice, but it could be short-lived. Who knows?"
The Panthers took a 15-8 record into a second-round game Feb. 20 at sixth-seeded Westerville North. The winner will play seventh-seeded Olentangy or Mount Vernon in a district semifinal Feb. 28 at Jonathan Alder.
Sophomore guard Emily Thomas scored a game-high 15 points against Marion-Franklin. Senior guard Christy Macioce and junior forwards Brittany Johnson and Jordan Toohey added 14 apiece.
Zink took over the all-time lead in wins on Feb. 10, 2011, when Beavercreek defeated Springfield 57-33. That was his 658th win, which surpassed the 657 earned by Karen Wittrock at Rocky River Lutheran West from 1968-2009.
"I knew (Butcher) was close to me," Zink told the Dayton Daily News in March 2012. "I expect he'll pass me next season because his programs are always outstanding."
Butcher also recently earned Coach of the Year honors for 2012 by the National Federation of High School Coaches Association, and learned he will receive the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association's Paul Walker Award during the boys state tournament in March. The award, named for the longtime Middletown boys coach who won 695 games from 1935-76 with the Middies as well as Hardinsburg (Ky.), Anchorage (Ky.) and Portsmouth, is given annually to an active coach who has made significant contributions to high school basketball.
Tigers upset in first round
Visiting Upper Arlington outscored Central 16-6 in the second quarter of their Division I district tournament first-round game Feb. 16 and upset the 10th-seeded Tigers 45-42.
Sophomore guard Taylor Johnson scored 11 points and senior guard Phylicia Johnson added nine for Central, which got within three points on Phylicia Johnson's jumper with 44 seconds to play. Neither team scored again.
Andi Norman's 17 points and eight rebounds paced the 23rd-seeded Golden Bears.
"We jumped to an early lead, got a couple fouls on them and we looked like we were taking control. But then ... we shot ourselves in the foot," said coach James Stutzman, whose team finished 16-7 overall and 9-5 in the OCC-Ohio Division. "We didn't run an offense. We took poor shots. Our defense was not very aggressive at all and we gave them multiple opportunities on the glass and second and third shots. They eventually started to hit."
Central, which was 7-14 in 2011-12, tied North for third in the OCC-Ohio 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).
Phylicia Johnson, who averaged a team-best 9.9 points, was the Tigers' only senior. Expected returnees include Taylor Johnson (9.3 points), junior forward Allie Luther (9.3), junior guards Aajah and Amari Hawkins and junior forwards Kiana and Kiara Thomas.
"Hopefully it's a learning step for us, but the overall season was definitely an improvement," Stutzman said. "I challenged them to make sure we are preparing, both mentally and physically, to make sure we're a better team next year. The core of girls we should have returning, we have a good chance to get our 16 wins next year and hopefully a few more."