Pickerington High School North girls basketball coach Dave Butcher spent a few minutes after a recent practice sharing observations with his point guard, Aubrey Lukacsko.
At times, Lukacsko, a 5-foot-4 junior and two-year starter, finished sentences started by Butcher, who is closing in on 700 career wins.
"She can finish my sentences, she can read my mind. It's sort of scary because I don't know if that's what you want to do sometimes," Butcher said, laughing. "Aubrey's become a leader, and she's only getting better."
Lukacsko has had little choice but to improve. She is the only returning starter who has played the entire season, and she took over at point guard full time when junior Emily Thomas went down Dec. 20 with a season-ending tear to her right ACL.
Lukacsko and Thomas previously had shared duties at the point, with the other moving to shooting guard.
"I was more of a defensive player who contributed offense when I could, but I had to be that leader and a role model. Someone had to step up and take that role," said Lukacsko, who was averaging 8.9 points, four assists and four steals through 19 games. "With my size, being 5-4, I have to make up for that with other things by maybe doing things that other people can't, like my hustle plays and getting steals when I can."
North is 11-9 overall and 7-5 in the OCC-Ohio Division. The Panthers play host to Gahanna on Friday, Feb. 7.
Lukacsko's best scoring game of the season was 21 points on Jan. 18 in a 60-20 win over Des Plaines (Ill.) Maine West in the McDonald's Shootout at Villa Park (Ill.) Willowbrook.
"She's shot the ball better, which has allowed her to score, and she's cut down the number of mistakes she's made on the floor," said Butcher, who was 696-97 in his career entering the week. "I know basketball is something she'd like to take to the next level. It's a disadvantage because of her size. I've told her to overcome that, her skills must be really, really good, and that's what she's had to work on."
Lukacsko also had 10 goals and nine assists for the girls soccer team last season, when it went 19-1-1 overall and 7-0 in the OCC-Ohio and won its second consecutive Division I regional championship. But which sport is primary has never been a question for Lukacsko.
"I've always been pretty focused on basketball," she said. "I think you find a passion for a specific sport, and I've found that with basketball. I love soccer and I'll work hard at that, but when it comes down to it, I want to play basketball.
"I have shooting coaches and I play AAU (with College Bound Elite). There's never really an offseason for me."
The Panthers, whose regular-season finale is at home Tuesday, Feb. 11, against Pickerington Central, gradually are getting healthier. Jordan Toohey returned from a left ACL injury two weeks ago, and Brittany Johnson returned Jan. 31 from a microfracture in her right knee.
Johnson, who was injured in July, scored six points and played about three quarters in a 46-37 loss to Reynoldsburg.
The Central-North game originally was scheduled for Jan. 28 but was postponed because of bad weather.
"I'm excited with (Toohey and Johnson) being back. We're looking a lot better," Lukacsko said. "We just have to know that by the end of the season, we could be quite a little story."
Central earns fifth seed in tourney
Central coach Johnathan Hedgepeth hoped his team's 13-6 record turned some heads, but he admitted he didn't expect the Tigers to earn the fifth seed for the Division I district tournament.
"I was actually shocked," he said. "We think we've played well this season, but we didn't expect (to be fifth). I was thinking top 10. If you look at records of some of the other teams, obviously they have better records, but we're pleased to be where we are. We just have to keep winning games."
Central, which fell to 7-4 in the OCC-Ohio with a 70-69 loss at Grove City on Jan. 31 and played Newark in a league game Feb. 4, will play host to 42nd-seeded Olentangy Orange in a first-round game Feb. 15.
North is seeded 14th and has a first-round bye. The Panthers will play host to 43rd-seeded Dublin Scioto on Feb. 19.