For the first time in its history, someone other than Dave Butcher coached the Pickerington High School North girls basketball team when it opened the season Nov. 25 with a 57-54 loss to Watkins Memorial in the Gary West Memorial Tip-Off Classic at Reynoldsburg.

Rather than be apprehensive, the Panthers couldn't wait to see what the future holds under first-year coach Silas Williams, from a new up-tempo offense to his man-to-man defense.

"He's a big ball of energy," senior point guard Mickale Bates said. "He has a lot of energy coming into practices and scrimmages. His intensity brings our intensity up. ...

"He is bringing a new type of flavor to this year."

Williams, who went 103-83 in eight seasons at Westerville South and coached the Wildcats to a Division I district championship last year, took over in late May for Butcher, who resigned after going 747-146 in 35 seasons at North and Pickerington and coaching the Panthers since the school opened in 2003. Butcher will be an assistant at OCC-Ohio Division rival Reynoldsburg this season.

"I am loving it right now," Williams said. "My main goal is that we have to progress every single day. Today, we have to be better than we were yesterday. Our goals are still high. Pickerington North has always had high expectations and hopefully we can raise that bar."

The 5-foot-4 Bates, an Ohio Christian University commit, is among a handful of returnees that also includes seniors Avery Hart (5-8, guard) and Gabby Rullo (5-5, guard), junior Saige Glover (6-0, forward) and sophomores Mayson Bates (5-10, forward) and Dru Ultican (5-11, forward).

Last season, the Panthers finished 10-13 overall and 3-7 in the OCC-Ohio.

Hart had 21 points and Glover added 15 against Watkins Memorial.

Williams was pleased that both Bates and Hart cited conditioning as an early strength.

"We came in the day after Labor Day and hit the track," Williams said.

"We hit the weight room. These girls play year-round, whether it's basketball, soccer, whatever sport, and they have to condition their bodies. That's one thing we believe in. The stronger they are, the longer they'll last. They were ready for it until they got into it, but they adjusted well. They expect it now. I hope it carries over and we can run up and down the floor quicker, because we will play fast.

"We will pick up the tempo a little bit. They are still getting used to me and how aggressive I am. We will go full-court man-to-man, trap, whatever. It takes a lot of energy to do that. They are accepting the challenge."

Glover averaged a team-high 14.9 points last season and Bates averaged 8.7.

North's defense is a change from the 2-3 zone Butcher usually employed.

"I think this is going to be good for us," Hart said.

"Last year (in the zone), we weren't always quick enough or we didn't match up right. I'm excited about it."

Rounding out the roster are sophomores Malea Bess (5-6, guard), Maggie Cundiff (5-6, guard), Koryn Dorman (5-6, guard), Alsaysha Grant (5-6, guard) and Keyari Wilson (5-7, guard) and freshmen Adi Dorman (5-7, guard) and Jordan Maruskin (5-6, guard).

North plays its first four games away from home, including its OCC-Ohio opener Tuesday, Dec. 4, at Grove City. The Panthers' first home game is Dec. 7 against defending Division I state champion Pickerington Central.

Athletes announce college decisions

In addition to Bates, nine other student-athletes ann-ounced their college decisions Nov. 14.

Camryn Dees will play women's soccer at Rider, Alicia Donley will play women's soccer at Tennessee, Brayden Durbin will play men's soccer at Ohio State, Makenna Greer will play women's soccer at Ohio Dominican, Brianna Hollingshed will play women's volleyball at Arkansas State, Grace Kenyon will play women's soccer at Seton Hill, Mackenzie Rogers will play women's lacrosse at University of the Cumberlands, Megan Vayansky will play women's volleyball at Lourdes and Sophia Zimmerman will play women's lacrosse at Walsh.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Nov. 25 -- Watkins Memorial in Gary West Memorial Tip-Off Classic at Reynoldsburg

Nov. 30 -- at Walnut Ridge

Dec. 3 -- at Trotwood-Madison

*Dec. 4 -- at Grove City

*Dec. 7 -- vs. Pickerington Central

*Dec. 14 -- vs. Gahanna

Dec. 18 -- vs. Westland

*Dec. 21 -- vs. Lancaster

Dec. 28 -- vs. Eastmoor Academy

*Jan. 4 -- vs. Reynoldsburg

Jan. 8 -- at Dublin Coffman

*Jan. 11 -- vs. Grove City

Jan. 15 -- at Hilliard Davidson

*Jan. 18 -- at Pickerington Central

Jan. 22 -- vs. Groveport

*Jan. 25 -- vs. Gahanna

Jan. 26 -- Hartley in Lady Nubian Classic at Africentric

Jan. 28 -- vs. Thornville Sheridan

Jan. 30 -- at Logan

*Feb. 1 -- at Lancaster

Feb. 5 -- at Canal Winchester

*Feb. 8 -- at Reynoldsburg

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the North boys basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

Dec. 1 -- Home vs. Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph in All-Ohio Nike Hoops Showcase

Dec. 4 -- Home vs. Linden-McKinley

BOWLING

Dec. 1 -- Red, White and Blue Classic at HP Lanes

*Dec. 5 -- Thomas Worthington at Rule 3

SWIMMING & DIVING

Dec. 1 -- Mason Invitational

WRESTLING

Dec. 1 -- Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational at Upper Arlington

*League contest