Shooting 3-pointers has become a staple for Pickerington High School North girls basketball team's offense. Last season, the Panthers shot 20-25 a game.

Shooting 3-pointers has become a staple for Pickerington High School North girls basketball team's offense. Last season, the Panthers shot 20-25 a game.

Although North has lived and died by the 3, the winning results have remained the same. North finished 20-5 overall after losing to West Chester Lakota West 77-60 in a Division I regional semifinal. The Panthers won their fifth consecutive OCC-Ohio Division title (12-2). Coach Dave Butcher won his 21st consecutive district title as North beat Northland 43-36.

"Relying on the 3-ball is good at times and not so good at times," said Butcher, whose team opens Saturday at home against Northland. "We struggled offensively when we didn't shoot well on the perimeter. We're hoping this year we can score in transition, off our defense, in full-court pressure and maybe get the ball inside."

Leading the charge is senior point guard Nicole Olszewski. On Nov. 11, Olszewski signed to continue he career at Austin Peay. Last season, she started at point guard and was named second-team all-conference, averaging more than 7 points a game.

"I came into the gym two times a week to work on my shot and my game," Olszewski said. "I also spent a lot of time running on my own and in the weight room.

"We're trying for the best season we can have. We want to get further in the tournament than we did last year and bring back that OCC title."

In the frontcourt, junior Kavunaa Edwards (5-foot-11) emerged as a starter last season. In the Panthers' final 10 regular-season games, Edwards averaged 10.3 points as she scored at least eight points in every game during that span.

"Kavunaa has improved tremendously," Butcher said. "She's being looked at by a lot of schools. She had a nice summer, she's filled into her body, she's a strong athlete and we're going to need her to score."

Rounding out North's expected starting five are senior Michele Hare (guard) and juniors Shelby Olszewski (guard) and Jordan Householder (forward). Shelby Olszewski was the first player off the bench last season.

"With Shelby coming back, she's going to do what she does," Butcher said. "She creates havoc. She plays hard and is intense. With Shelby, Nicole and Kavunaa, that is a pretty good core of three players."

North graduated six players, led by guards Brittney Callahan and Brittany Gamby and post player Jenn Rennell. Callahan, who averaged 12.0 points and was named first-team all-conference and second-team all-district, is now playing at Northern Illinois and Gamby is playing at UNC-Wilmington.

While Butcher expects North to shoot fewer 3-pointers, he knows the key to continue the program's success comes in the half court.

North opened 6-3 last season with a loss to Central and two more in the Holiday Classic. During that span, the Panthers averaged 34.5 points. Yet, an improved field-goal percentage by the Panthers netted more victories.

"It'll still boils down to our half-court offense and defense," Butcher said. "When it comes to beating really quality teams, it always comes down to half-court offense and defense. We're not the greatest half-court offense right now, but it's an area we're working on."

North's Shelby Olszewski looks to pass as she is defended by Canfield's Sara Shoemaker in a preview last Friday at North.

North's Kavunaa Edwards is guarded by Sabrina Mangapora of Canfield last Friday.

At a glance

•Coach: Dave Butcher, seventh season (27th overall)

•Opener: Saturday vs. Northland

•Key players: Kavunaa Edwards, Nicole Olszewski and Shelby Olszewski

Schedule

Nov. 28 vs. Northland

*Dec. 3 vs. Grove City

*Dec. 8 at Groveport

*Dec. 11 vs. Pickerington Central

*Dec. 17 vs. Reynoldsburg

*Dec. 22 at Gahanna

Dec. 28-30 vs. Key Bank Holiday Classic

*Jan. 5 at Lancaster

*Jan. 9 vs. Newark

Jan. 13 at Watterson

*Jan. 16 at Grove City

*Jan. 21 vs. Groveport

*Jan. 26 at Pickerington Central

*Jan. 30 at Reynoldsburg

*Feb. 2 vs. Gahanna

*Feb. 6 vs. Lancaster

*Feb. 11 at Newark

Feb. 13 vs. DeSales

*OCC-Ohio game