The Reynoldsburg High School girls basketball team can move a step closer to repeating as OCC-Ohio Division champion by beating Pickerington North on Friday, Jan. 27, at home.

The Reynoldsburg High School girls basketball team can move a step closer to repeating as OCC-Ohio Division champion by beating Pickerington North on Friday, Jan. 27, at home.

The Raiders were 15-0 overall and 9-0 in the league before playing Newark on Jan. 24.

The Panthers were 14-1 and 8-1 before playing Pickerington Central on Jan. 24.

In last week's Division I state poll, the Raiders were ranked first and the Panthers were ranked second.

"The matchup says a lot about our league and just how strong it is," Reynoldsburg coach Jack Purtell. "Pickerington North has always been one of the best programs in the country. This is a huge game, a big regular-season game. It should be fun with a great atmosphere and will help both teams prepare for the postseason."

Reynoldsburg won the first-round meeting 41-37 on Dec. 16 at North.

Last season, the Raiders captured the OCC-Ohio title at 14-0, two games better than runner-up the Panthers.

The rematch tips off at 6 p.m. and will be followed by the North-Reynoldsburg boys game.

"Both teams defend so well. When I came to Reynoldsburg, I wanted to be able to defend the way they do," Purtell said of the Panthers. "It's going to come down to who can make shots, (limit) turnovers and (make) free throws. We won on the boards in the first meeting and that will be important to do it again."

Among the keys for the Raiders has been the play of starting guards Aliyah Zantt and Yamonie Jenkins, although both have seen their roles altered this winter.

Zantt, a senior who has verbally committed to Eastern Michigan, led the Raiders in scoring last season (13.1 points per game) as the first player off the bench and made the ThisWeek Super 12.

This season, with inside players Alyssa Rice and Destini Cooper as the first options on offense, Zantt's scoring average dropped to 11.3 through 15 games.

"Aliyah doesn't have to score for us this year," Purtell said. "When we struggle, she scores when we need her to. She's the ultimate team player. She gets it."

"My role this year is to score when it's needed," Zantt said. "Our offense starts in the post this year because we are so skilled in the post. We go there first and they can kick it out to us guards. It's fun to be around so many skilled players. That's the great thing about our team, everyone can score."

Jenkins, a junior, started every game at the off-guard position last season and averaged 6.5 points, 3.8 assists and 2.8 steals. With the graduation of three-year starter Kacia Grant, Jenkins moved to point guard this season and had averaged 6.1 points, 4.7 assists and 3.5 steals through 15 games.

"She understands the game so well and has such a high basketball IQ," Purtell said of Jenkins. "She knows we are an 'inside-out' team first; she knows what to do. She continues to impress me with her unselfish play, her passion and her leadership."

Jenkins said playing point guard is different, but she likes it.

"Last year, I had a smaller role, but this year at the point, I have to run the team and control the tempo," said Jenkins, who believes Cooper and Rice have eased her transition.

"Having the two 'bigs' makes everything a lot easier for us," Jenkins said. "We can run plays inside-out through them and they can also play inside and outside, and that just makes it easier."

Purtell said Zantt and Jenkins also are rebounding better and rising to the challenge defensively.

"Aliyah is always in the right spot now. She has worked hard and she really turns and traps on defense," Purtell said. "When I used to watch Kacia play defense I almost felt sorry for the other team, and Yamonie is playing like that. She picks up the defense and opens things up for her teammates to really get in passing lanes."

Zantt said the Raiders have a lot of work to do before the season can be called a success.

"We just have to keep doing what we're doing (and) make adjustments game by game," Zantt said. "We've got to continue to keep working hard and get ready for each game."