Notebook: Steven Hile provides extra inside presence for Pickerington North Panthers

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Jerry Saunders and the North boys basketball team were 3-1 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing New Albany on Jan. 8.

Pickerington North boys basketball coach Jason Bates knew he would play four guards most of the time this season, but expected to have 6-foot-5 senior center Elijah Hawk as an anchor inside.

When Hawk, a Western Michigan football recruit, temporarily left the team early in the season, the role of big man was passed to 6-4 junior center Steven Hile.

Acting largely as a defensive presence, Hile averaged 4.6 points and 8.0 rebounds through four games as North was 3-1 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing New Albany on Jan. 8.

“He’s done a phenomenal job. This is a guy who’s stepping in having not played any varsity at all,” Bates said. “(Hile’s) attitude is excellent and contagious. He’s a hard worker. The box outs and things that the stat line doesn’t show are huge. Any scoring from him is a bonus and it definitely makes him feel better, too.”

Hawk returned to the Panthers last week.

North also found itself getting healthier coming into January, as guard Dior Conners returned from an injury Dec. 22 to help the Panthers to a 54-46 comeback win over Upper Arlington.

Casey George averaged 20.0 points through four games, including a career-high 30 in a season-opening 65-44 win at Grove City on Dec. 18.

He had 18 points and Jerry Saunders scored 17 in the Panthers’ first loss, 49-45 at Westerville Central on Jan. 5.

Madison Greene and the Central girls basketball team will play host to the MLK Prep Shootout on Saturday, Jan. 16, and Monday, Jan. 18.

•The Central girls basketball team will play host to the MLK Prep Shootout on Saturday, Jan. 16, and Monday, Jan. 18, the first time the Tigers have held an event on that weekend since 2015.

The Tigers, who were 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Buckeye before playing Lancaster on Jan. 8, will take on Indianapolis North Central on Jan. 16 and Lanham (Maryland) Emerge Christian Academy on Jan. 18.

North Central, which is led by guard and Arizona State recruit Meg Newman, was ranked second in the Indiana state coaches poll of Jan. 3.

There will be five games the first day and four on the second.

Other in-state teams that will participate are Africentric, Dublin Coffman, Dublin Scioto, Gahanna, Hartley, Hilliard Davidson, Liberty Union, McArthur Vinton County, New Lexington, Watterson and Westerville South. 

Rounding out the field is Fort Wayne (Indiana) Homestead, which was ranked 15th in its state poll last week.

Central played host to an event long known as the Fairfield Federal All-Ohio Girls Prep Shootout until the mid-2010s but participated in the Classic in the Country at Berlin Hiland each of the past six years.

•The North girls basketball team needed only six games to exceed its win total from last season.

Mayson Bates scored 12 points and Kyle Mizer had 11 on Jan. 5 as the Panthers beat visiting Westerville Central 54-32 to improve to 3-3 overall. Alsaysha Grant added nine points for North, which finished 2-21 last year and also was 2-0 in the OCC-Ohio before playing New Albany on Jan. 8.

The Panthers’ earlier wins came against Grove City (31-28 on Dec. 18) and Lancaster (47-33 on Dec. 29).

•The Central boys basketball team was 1-3 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Buckeye before playing Lancaster on Jan. 8, but each loss came against state-ranked competition.

After a season-opening 63-60 win at Newark on Dec. 19, the Tigers lost to visiting Gahanna (65-51 on Dec. 22) and on the road against Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (68-53 on Jan. 2) and Centerville (65-56 on Jan. 5).

Gahanna was fourth and Centerville 15th in Division I in last week’s state poll. St. Vincent-St. Mary was second in Division II.

Gavin Headings had 19 points against Centerville as Central played without guard/forward Garner Wallace for a second consecutive game because of an injury.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave