RED LION -- The Central York boys' basketball team got hit with a dose of reality at the beginning of Monday night's York-Adams Division I game against Red Lion.
"We came out thinking we could do whatever we wanted, and they took it to us," Central head coach Kevin Schieler said.
Red Lion knocked down its first five shots from the field and bolted to a 12-2 lead over the Panthers, who were coming off an impressive 61-48 victory over York High.
The Lions' marksmanship put Central down, but the Panthers got back up and rallied to earn a 50-45 victory.
Central is now a perfect 4-0 in division play and 6-1 overall. Red Lion slipped to 3-2 and 5-2.
"We said in the room after Friday's game, it wouldn't get easier for us, it would get harder," Schieler said. "Everyone will have their game with us circled on their schedule. Our defense got us back in this game."
Central forced 11 turnovers in the first half and outscored Red Lion, 19-8, in the second quarter to take a 28-22 lead at halftime.
The Panthers built a 13-point advantage in the third quarter before Red Lion went on a run of its own and twice closed to within two points in the fourth quarter.
After the Lions' Mike Fox scored on a drive to make it 41-39, Central's Sam Saxton nailed a 3-point shot from the top of the key with 2:33 remaining in the game to push the lead to five points. Central's Royce Clemens then followed with a steal and a layup to pull his team out of danger. Saxton delivered his three following a time out.
"The play has three options, and the first is to see if there is a shot," Saxton said. "As soon as I Iet it go, I was thinking that it felt good."
Saxton said that he and his teammates were forced to adjust when Red Lion jumped on them early.
"It was a case of getting focused and getting our heads in the game," he said. "They were gunning for us."
Clemens led Central with 11 points and Saxton finished with 10.
Fox and Jason Rebuck each scored 12 points for Red Lion.
"We got off to a good start, but we then we started turning it over," Lions' head coach Steve Schmehl said. "You have to take care of the basketball."
Schmehl was proud of the way his team almost erased a 13-point deficit, but he wished the Lions could have hit a few more shots behind the arc. Red Lion was just 3-of-16 from 3-point range.
"We have guys who have shown they can make them, but you have to do it when the lights are on," Schmehl said. "Central is a good team, no doubt about that, but I really feel this division is balanced this year, and everyone is going to beat everyone."
In something you don't see very often, Red Lion did not attempt a single foul shot. Central was 7-of-8 at the line with seven of the attempts coming in the second half.
Dick VanOlinda covers high school sports for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.