Pickerington North Roundup: Effort key to success for Panthers boys basketball team

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
North junior guard Corey Hudson is expected to be one of the team's top returnees after averaging 7.2 points and being named honorable mention all-league as the Panthers finished 13-6 overall and reached a Division I district final.

Pickerington North boys basketball coach Jason Bates said entering the Division I district tournament that he opted to enter the same bracket as OCC-Ohio Division rival Westerville Central because at the time of the draw, the teams had met twice and he felt comfortable if a third matchup were to take place. 

The Panthers handed the Warhawks their first of two regular-season losses, 51-50 on Jan. 22, and it appeared for a while in their district final March 6 that seventh-seeded North again might get the better of second-seeded Central. 

North put itself in position with a 17-2 run spanning the third and fourth quarters, and held Central scoreless for 7 ½ minutes, but fell just short of their third district title in five years when the Warhawks’ Landon Tillman made a 3-pointer with less than two seconds for a 41-39 win. 

“Basketball is play by play. These games are play by play. They made the plays to win. We had opportunities as well,” Bates said. “I talked to the seniors for a long time. You never get that moment back. I just told them I’m proud of them.  

“We started executing better (in the second half). We had a lot of missed opportunities in the first half. We turned our defense up a little bit better in the second half. We guarded them well all three games that we played them. We settled into the game. We had a little bit of nerves at the beginning (with) uncharacteristic errors. We settled into the game and got some confidence going.” 

The Panthers finished 13-6 overall and 7-3 in the OCC-Ohio behind Gahanna (9-1). The top-seeded Lions also won a district championship March 6. 

Senior guard Casey George averaged a team-high 18.4 points and was first-team all-league and second-team all-district. Junior guard Jerry Saunders added 13.3 points and was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district. 

This year’s team was unlike most of its predecessors under Bates in that it had only two true big men in 6-foot-5 senior Elijah Hawk, a Western Michigan football recruit, and 6-4 classmate Steven Hile. 

“Nobody would have thought going into this season that this team would be in this position except us. They played their way to this position,” Bates said. “I thanked them for being locked in. I thanked them for all of their efforts.” 

Other players eligible to return include junior guards Dior Conners (5.9 points, special mention all-league) and Corey Hudson (7.2 points, honorable mention all-league). 

The Panthers' Luke Harris, who competed at 113 pounds, went 0-2 at the district tournament to finish his freshman year at 18-14.

Wrestling season

ends at district 

None of the wrestling team’s eight Division I district qualifiers advanced to state March 13 and 14 at Hilliard Darby, although three of them won two matches and one – senior David Carte – twice came within a win of qualifying. 

Carte went 2-2 at 145 pounds and finished sixth March 6 and 7 at Darby. He lost to Whetstone’s Darric McClinton 11-5 in a semifinal and 6-3 to Gahanna’s Charles Williams in a consolation semifinal, two matches in which the winner clinched a state berth. 

The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state. 

North scored 20 points and tied Chillicothe for 20th behind champion Dublin Coffman (224.5) as 40 teams scored. 

“He’s a tough kid. He’ll bounce back, and he’ll have a good career and be a great person. I just feel bad for him now because he worked so hard,” coach Derek Oney said of Carte, who finished a team-best 26-6.

“(Eight district qualifiers) is a good number, but I don’t want to just get here. I want our guys to be able to compete here and move on, so that’s the next thing I’m trying to instill in the program. Just getting here is not the goal. The state tournament is the goal.” 

Also competing at district were junior Braden Watts (heavyweight, 2-2), freshman Donavyn Watts (152, 2-2), seniors Erik Gomez (132, 1-2), Kyle Coffey (160, 0-2) and Dashar El-Amin (195, 0-2), sophomore Colin Touvel (138, 0-2) and freshman Luke Harris (113, 0-2). 

Donvayn Watts finished 24-7. Gomez went 23-5, Braden Watts was 18-11 and Harris finished 18-14. 

Freshman Drennan Landenberger went 17-13 between 126 and 132 and Touvel finished 16-9. 

“We’ve been in better physical condition than everybody we’ve wrestled this year, but we weren’t always able to close out matches,” Oney said. “That will be something we have to improve on going forward.” 

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekDave 

BOYS BASKETBALL 

•Record: 13-6 overall 

•OCC-Ohio standings: Gahanna (9-1), Westerville Central (8-2), Pickerington North (7-3), Grove City (4-6), New Albany (2-8), Westland (0-10) 

•Seniors lost: Casey George, Elijah Hawk, Steven Hile, Ben Slayman and Brent Wippel 

•Key returnees: Dior Conners, Corey Hudson and Jerry Saunders 

•Postseason: Defeated New Albany 66-46; def. Olentangy Orange 60-54; lost to Central 41-39 in Division I district final 

WRESTLING 

•OCC-Ohio standings: Grove City (5-0), Gahanna and Central (both 3-2), New Albany and North (both 2-3), Westland (0-5) 

•Seniors lost: David Carte, Kyle Coffey, Dashar El-Amin, Erik Gomez and Tyce Neu 

•Key returnees: Luke Harris, Drennan Landenberger, Colin Touvel, Braden Watts and Donavyn Watts 

•Postseason: Fifth (152) at sectional behind champion Westerville North (275), tied for 24th (20) at district behind champion Dublin Coffman (224.5)