Central’s Royce Clemens stretches to return the ball in Wednesday’s District 3-AAA semifinal against Hempfield.
Central's Royce Clemens stretches to return the ball in Wednesday's District 3-AAA semifinal against Hempfield. (Bil Bowden photo)


DALLASTOWN -- Having two or three of the best players on the court at anytime is usually a good omen for a high school boys' volleyball team.

Wednesday night was an exception to that rule when Central York battled Hempfield in a District 3-AAA semifinal at Dallastown High School.

While the Panthers rode the trio of hitters Alex Klunk, Royce Clemens, and Ryan Gardner to 41 kills, the Black Knights trumped them with the best player on the court in Garret Dimm.

Dimm was a terror on the Central defense throughout. He blasted an amazing 30 kills to go with a block and three aces to lead his team to a 25-23, 18-25, 25-22, 25-22 victory.

Central’s Jason Gardner blasts a shot over the net. The Panthers fell to Hempfield, 25-23, 18-25, 25-22, 25-22.
Central's Jason Gardner blasts a shot over the net. The Panthers fell to Hempfield, 25-23, 18-25, 25-22, 25-22. (Bil Bowden photo)

Top-seeded Hempfield (17-0) will face No. 2 seeded Central Dauphin (14-2) in the finals on Friday at 7:30 p.m. back at Dallastown. The Panthers (13-3) will battle Chambersburg (14-2) in the third-place match at Central York High School at 6 p.m. Friday. All four teams have already clinched berths in the PIAA state tournament. Central Dauphin defeated Chambersburg in the other semifinal, 21-25, 25-19, 25-19, 25-23.

"He played very, very well tonight," said Central coach Brad Livingston of Dimm.

Even that may be an understatement. Whenever Hempfield needed a point, the ball found its way to Dimm time and time again. Despite a double-block in his face almost every time he attacked the ball, Dimm somehow found ways to put balls on the ground, no matter where he stood on the court.

Clemens did his best to try to match Dimm point-for-point, something that was evident in Game 4 when those two seemed to play a game of trying to one-up the other.

"We've seen that before," Livingston said. "We went back and forth with them about four weeks ago for 49-47. So we've seen that before and hopefully we'll see it again. I'm sure we'll play them again this year."

Dimm's outstanding play notwithstanding, the Panthers had their chances in Games 1, 3 and 4 to squeeze out victories.

Central York s Ryan Gardner, left, defends against Hempfield s Chris Booth in Wednesday s semifinal-round action.
Central York s Ryan Gardner, left, defends against Hempfield s Chris Booth in Wednesday s semifinal-round action. (Bil Bowden photo)

Central led for the better part of the first game until Hempfield took the lead at 20-19 after a Panther hitting error. A Klunk kill on the next point tied the game, but the Knights responded by scoring the next three points to gain control.

In Game 3, Central rallied from a 16-13 deficit to close to within 22-21 late, but couldn't string together enough consecutive points. That was also the case in Game 4, when the Panthers rallied from a 9-3 deficit to get to within 21-20.

"I think this is very hard for two (top) teams to go against each other," Livingston said. "And that goes for the first game (Central Dauphin vs. Chambersburg) tonight. Four of the top teams in the state played here tonight.

"The bottom line here is that it's a lot of pressure and emotion that you have to deal with. I thought that we came back and gave ourselves a chance to win at the end, but we just weren't quick enough to do it today."

While the Panthers left the Dallastown gym upset, Livingston gave them only a little bit of advice heading into Friday's consolation match against the defending PIAA Class AAA state champions.

"Get over it by (Thursday) morning," Livingston told his team.

Clemens led the Panthers with 19 kills, to go with five blocks, three digs and two assists, while Klunk (12 kills) and Gardner (10 kills) also paced the attack. Setter Dylan Hose dished out 47 assists.

Central finished with 21 blocks as a team, with Clemens and Jason Gardner tallying five apiece.

-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.