Asked about her role on the Pickerington High School North girls basketball team, Zharia Lenoir spent more than 10 seconds trying to find the right words.
"I'm just expected to play hard all of the time, go as hard as I can every single time I'm out there," said Lenoir, a 5-foot-11 sophomore forward/center who has started on and off throughout the Panthers' first 11 games. "I need to shoot when I'm open and just play hard."
Lenoir isn't the only member of the team re-evaluating her role after yet another round of injuries.
Junior guard Emily Thomas will miss the rest of the season because of a torn ACL in her right knee sustained in a 49-29 loss to Reynoldsburg on Dec. 20. Freshman forward Danielle Bradley and sophomore guard Paige Matijasich sustained shoulder injuries last weekend during the Lady Panther Holiday Classic but are not expected to miss much time.
Those followed injuries last summer to senior forwards Brittany Johnson and Jordan Toohey. Johnson, a Quinnipiac signee, sustained a microfracture in her right knee in an AAU tournament in late July. About the same time, Toohey, a Radford signee, blew out her left ACL.
Both have said they hope to return late in the season.
"It's gut-check time," junior guard Aubrey Lukacsko said after North lost to Solon 59-37 on Dec. 29 in the third-place game of the Holiday Classic. "We have a lot of people out, people who would have been starting, and we all need to step up."
North went 1-2 in the Holiday Classic, falling to 6-5 overall. The Panthers defeated Baltimore Seton Keough 56-41 in a first-round game Dec. 27 and fell to Sylvania Northview 46-42 in a semifinal the next night.
North trailed Northview 14-4 after the first quarter but rallied to get within two points late.
Against Solon, Lenoir hit a 3-pointer in the last minute of the first half to pull the Panthers within 23-22. Alayna Khan's 3-pointer gave North a 25-23 lead in the first 30 seconds of the second half, but then the Comets reeled off runs of 16-2 and 14-4 to seize control.
Lenoir scored a team-high nine points and Lukacsko added seven for the Panthers, who take a 3-2 OCC-Ohio Division record into a Thursday, Jan. 2, home game against Groveport.
"I just want to show people how good I can be," Lenoir said. "Our team leader is Aubrey, but we're looking for and expecting everyone to help each other out."
Lukacsko, a two-year starter who was North's first player off the bench as a freshman, deflected any credit.
"A lot of girls here have the capability to be leaders," she said. "I'm more vocal and I try to show (leadership) through my play, too, but some people just show it through their play. Everybody can feed off that.
"We have to play with as much passion as we can to get through this season. We can be stronger than we were before, and we will be."
Centerville captured its second consecutive Holiday Classic championship, winning all three games by 14 points or more. The Elks topped Gates Mills Gilmour Academy 57-35 on Dec. 27 and Solon 66-52 in a semifinal Dec. 28 before routing Northview 54-28 in the final.
Louisville (Ky.) Mercy Academy defeated Seton Keough 44-38 in the fifth-place game. Gilmour Academy defeated five-time defending Division II state champion Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown 47-30 to capture seventh place.
Lukacsko was named to the all-tournament team with Centerville's Shannon Coffee, Bethany Krause and Shannon Reilly; Gilmour Academy's Jess Janota; Hathaway Brown's Beth Brzozowski; Mercy Academy's Hannah Bewley and Malerie Martin; Northview's Maddie Cole and Kendall McCoy; Seton Keough's Imani Hudson and Solon's Dee Bejelka and Kristen Confroy.
Coffee was named Most Valuable Player.
Janota had 18 blocks in three games, tying the tournament record set by LaToya Turner in 1997.
Tigers cruise at Teays Valley tourney
Central's girls won two lopsided games in Teays Valley's Classic in the Valley tournament, routing Hilliard Davidson 66-32 on Dec. 27 and the host Vikings 70-52 in the championship the next night.
Taylor Johnson led the Tigers in scoring in both games, with 20 points against Davidson and 19 against Teays Valley. Katrina Williams had 18 points in the final and 15 against Davidson as Central improved to 8-2 overall.
The Tigers entered 2014 tied for second (4-1) in the OCC-Ohio with Newark, one game behind Reynoldsburg (5-0).
Orange Bowl prompts time, date changes
Central and North each moved basketball games originally scheduled for the night of Friday, Jan. 3, to avoid a conflict with the Orange Bowl, in which Ohio State will play Clemson.
The Panthers' boys-girls doubleheader against Groveport was moved to Jan. 2. The girls game will begin at 6 p.m., with the boys game scheduled for 7:30.
Central's games against Newark still will take place Jan. 3, but were moved up to 6 p.m. The Tigers' boys are at home, and the girls are on the road.
The Orange Bowl is scheduled to kick off at 8:30 p.m.