Pickerington High School North boys basketball coach Jerry Groves doesn't pretend to have any earth-shattering observations on why Andrew Butt has become one of the Panthers' best players.
"He just understands basketball," Groves said of Butt, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound junior center. "He gives us that real big, physical presence inside. We're trying to get him to learn to score a little bit more. It's something he's working on, but he's been great on the boards. He's a tough guy who gives us another body that we need."
Butt is averaging 5.4 points and a team-high eight rebounds for North, which is 3-12 overall and 2-7 in the OCC-Ohio Division. The Central-North boys-girls doubleheader scheduled for Jan. 28 at North was postponed because of bad weather and rescheduled for Feb. 11.
"I think I've done pretty well by my standards," said Butt, who played mostly junior varsity as a sophomore. "I like the way I'm rebounding and the way I attack the basket."
In a season in which North averaged 46.3 points through 15 games, Butt is among several contributors who have taken turns leading the team. He had a season-high 15 points in a 47-44 loss to Teays Valley on Dec. 3 but largely has become a defensive presence within several feet of the basket.
Butt is the younger brother of former Pickerington North football and basketball standout Jake Butt, a 2013 graduate who now is a tight end for the University of Michigan football team. Andrew and his twin, Zac, also play football. Like Jake, Andrew is a tight end who also plays on the defensive line.
Jake averaged 16.7 points and was named first-team all-league and second-team all-district as a junior. He played the first five games of his senior year before graduating early to enroll at Michigan.
Groves did not coach Jake but is aware of his reputation and thinks Andrew has similar potential.
"If he commits to basketball and gets better, he could be one of the better post guys in our league," Groves said. "The biggest thing for him is when he gets the ball, he has to finish. He needs to improve as a basketball player and improve his skill development so he can finish around the basket."
Andrew Butt sat out a 52-45 loss to Hilliard Davidson on Jan. 21 with an ankle injury but returned three nights later, scoring two points in a 46-40 win at Lancaster.
Bryce Montes had a game-high 13 points to carry North in that win, which completed a season sweep of the Golden Gales. The Panthers won the earlier meeting 53-36 on Dec. 13.
"We're getting better," Groves said. "We've had games where we've been close enough to win but just haven't been able to find a way to win, whether we were up a few and couldn't hold on or we were down a few and just couldn't hit that key shot that we needed. I think for us, it's a matter of figuring out how to win."
Central boys keep rolling under Krueger
Assistant coach Eric Krueger continues to oversee Central's boys team after coach Jerry Francis underwent back surgery Jan. 21.
Francis suffered what he called "a mini-stroke" earlier this month and also was diagnosed with two bulging discs in his back. Francis has not coached since Jan. 3, when the Tigers lost to Newark 62-58. Central is 7-0 under Krueger, pushing its record to 13-3 overall and 8-1 in the OCC-Ohio.
"We're still hoping coach Francis comes back this year," Krueger said. "He knows everything that's going on with the team. He's very proud of the guys."
A 68-55 win over Reynoldsburg on Jan. 24, coupled with Newark's 54-47 loss to Gahanna the same night, pushed the Tigers into sole possession of first place in the OCC-Ohio, a game ahead of Gahanna and Newark at 7-2. After a home game Friday, Jan. 31, against Grove City, Central visits Newark on Feb. 4.
Jae'Sean Tate had 23 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and five steals against Reynoldsburg, following up a 31-point, 12-rebound effort in a 74-67 win over Westerville Central on Jan. 21.
Connor Kern had a career-high 30 points in a 74-70 win over Northland on Jan. 25 in the Scholastic Play-by-Play Classic at Ohio Dominican.
Despite those standout individual performances, Krueger emphasized that cohesive team efforts have keyed the Tigers' hot play.
"I think the single thing that's helped us is that I have really emphasized playing together as a team in practice and overall," Krueger said. "The kids have shared the ball better and played unselfish ever since."
Central girls snap Raiders' streak
Having lost five games by a combined 32 points before their Jan. 24 home game against Reynoldsburg, Central's girls team hoped it had learned some valuable lessons.
The Tigers' perseverance helped them erase a 35-24 third-quarter deficit and resulted in a somewhat improbable 61-57 overtime victory over the Raiders that snapped Reynoldsburg's 54-game OCC-Ohio winning streak.
Allie Luther hit the tying layup with 3.1 seconds remaining in regulation, and Central never trailed in overtime. Aajah Hawkins and Katrina Williams each had 16 points and Taylor Johnson added 14 for the Tigers, who are 13-5 overall and 7-3 in the OCC-Ohio.
"It's just huge," coach Johnathan Hedgepeth said. "It's all about those girls. They've had four coaches in four years. They'd lost to Reynoldsburg seven times in a row. This senior class deserved this. They can play and they deserve to pull out one like this in their senior year."
Hedgepeth lauded the defensive effort of sophomore Samantha Grim, a 5-10 guard who has split time between varsity and junior varsity.
"She helped us play on the ball more with our man-to-man defense," Hedgepeth said. "We went with more speed and tried to pressure the ball a little bit more and it worked out for us. We tried to mix things up with Sam. She gives us good balance."
Butcher nears 700-win plateau
North girls coach Dave Butcher entered the week with 696 career wins, remaining the state's all-time winningest coach by the narrowest of margins.
The Panthers were 10-8 overall and 6-4 in the OCC-Ohio. Butcher was 696-96 overall, just ahead of Beavercreek's Ed Zink, who was 695-210 before a Jan. 29 game against Clayton Northmont.
Aubrey Lukacsko's 16 points carried North past Lancaster 52-34 on Jan. 24. Zharia Lenoir added 13 points.