After losing standout point guard Jack Gibbs to a season-ending knee injury last month, the Westerville North High School boys basketball team needed someone to help pick up the offensive slack.

After losing standout point guard Jack Gibbs to a season-ending knee injury last month, the Westerville North High School boys basketball team needed someone to help pick up the offensive slack.

Enter 6-foot-5 post player Taivion Thomas.

Gibbs was averaging 17.3 points before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a 45-41 loss to Dublin Scioto on Dec. 16. Through 13 games, Thomas was averaging 14.8 points and 7.1 rebounds.

"We were pretty down (about) Jack's injury," Thomas said. "I felt like after Jack went down, someone had to step up and be a leader and I felt like it had to be me. I felt like since our star player went down, we all had to take a big step in our games."

The Warriors lost to Olentangy Liberty 59-50 on Dec. 17 but then won six consecutive games before losing to LaPorte (Ind.) La Lumiere 58-54 in the Flyin' to the Hoop tournament Jan. 16 at Kettering Fairmont.

Thomas had 19 points and 12 rebounds against La Lumiere, which has seven Division I college signees.

"They were big and we played well against them," Thomas said of La Lumiere. "I like playing against guys like that. I'm used to playing (against) guys that size from playing AAU ball. We like playing teams like that because it will only make us better and help us go deeper in the (Division I) tournament."

Coach Kevin Thuman can't help but notice how Thomas has raised his level of play since Gibbs' injury.

"Taivion really has taken us on his back at times with a little more scoring and a little more rebounding since Jack went down," Thuman said. "He really has been giving a good effort in practice, and that has been translating into good game performances."

Thuman said Thomas brings many qualities to the court.

"First of all, he's really disciplined and has a lot of toughness," Thuman said. "He regularly guards guys who are bigger than he is, but not necessarily stronger. Taivion has been able to bang with the big guys, using his lower body strength to get position on those guys. He's smart in how he positions himself.

"He brings that athleticism that you don't always see in the post. But he can jump and he can run. He can beat the big guys down the floor for offensive rebounds and he also can knock down the jump shot."

Thomas said defense is an important component of his game.

"I feel like a leader more than ever and do everything I can to pick us up," said Thomas, who had 19 points and seven rebounds in a 61-48 win over Dublin Jerome on Jan. 20.

"I don't like to stand behind a post player (defensively). I want to get a hand or a leg around him and try to snatch the ball."

Entering play Jan. 24, the Warriors were tied with Westerville South for second in the OCC-Cardinal at 6-2, behind Liberty (8-0) and ahead of Scioto (5-3), Olentangy (3-5), Westerville Central (3-5), Jerome (1-7) and Marysville (0-8).

The Warriors play host to Scioto on Friday, Jan. 27.

"It's the kind of game, like a rivalry game, that feels like a tournament game," Thomas said. "Those games feel like they are one-and-done.

"In games like that, we have to block out our man and make sure we don't get beaten on the offensive rebounds. We have to make sure we take good shots, and when we miss, we have to be there for the rebound."