M.J. Logan was devoted to basketball growing up, but in spite of that -- or maybe because of it -- she needed just five lacrosse games as a freshman to show the Pickerington Central coaching staff she deserved a varsity spot.

Even with that rapid promotion, Logan's career has wildly exceeded her own expectations.

A three-year starting defender for the Tigers who would have been a four-year starter if not for this season being canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Logan will continue her lacrosse career and major in mechanical engineering at Lawrence Tech, an NAIA school in Southfield, Michigan.

Still, Logan approached every game of her prep career like she still was that freshman trying to prove herself.

"It's been tough to make sure I keep up and not fall behind. I know I am always competing for a spot," said Logan, whose given first name is Makenna. "It's never guaranteed, so I want to constantly keep pushing myself. I never want to stand still.

"My coach freshman year (Maggie Bornhorst) told me that the reason I got pulled up (to varsity) was that I worked so hard. From then on, if I wanted to make an impact, I had to constantly push myself."

Logan's promotion to varsity coincided with a strong finish for Central. In her first game, the Tigers snapped an 0-6 start with a 16-12 win over Dublin Coffman and won nine of their next 12 games to finish 10-9 overall and 5-1 in the OCC-Central Division, second only to Upper Arlington (6-0), which would go on to win the third of five consecutive Division I state championships.

"We were struggling a little bit on defense and lacking depth at midfielder so I suggested to (Bornhorst) that we should try to utilize M.J. as a 'defensive midfielder,' " said coach Brian Walton, who was an assistant coach Logan's freshman year and succeeded Bornhorst in 2018. "It's uncommon for girls lacrosse teams to utilize players as specialists in this manner, but this is the norm in boys lacrosse and having previously coached boys, the concept was familiar to me. This would enable us to get our seven strongest defenders on the field when we were on defense and then bring in a midfielder better suited for offense when we had the ball."

Central went 10-9 in 2018 and 13-5 last year, with the defense complementing an offense led by Denison recruit Maddie Morrell (66 goals, 19 assists, 66 draw controls and 20 caused turnovers) and Grace Osborn (64 goals, 15 assists, 102 draw controls).

Logan said her defensive prowess is a direct result of having played basketball from third to eighth grade.

"It's an instinct-type thing I have," Logan said. "When it came to basketball, I was really good at defense, so when it came time to be in that defensive position, it was automatic for me. With lacrosse, all I had to do was put a stick in my hand."

Logan, who according to Walton took only three shots in her career but scored twice, committed to Lawrence Tech in November.

That will mean a separation of more than 200 miles for Logan and her mother, Marsha Collins, who has raised her only child as a single parent for 15 years. Their bond was further strengthened last August when Collins was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.

"She's been through chemotherapy, stem-cell harvest, a lot of treatment," Logan said. "I am making sure I am there with her when things are rough after chemo. We've always been super close. Doing this, at first it was scary, but when it came time to step up, I knew I had to and it's made us even closer than we were before."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave