Defense was Kevin Schieler's ticket to playing time during his high school basketball career in the late 1990s.
"The only reason I played at York Catholic was because I could play defense," said Schieler, Central York's head coach for the past three seasons. "With the players they had and the way they could score (the Fighting Irish won the District 3-AA title in 1999), I wasn't in there for my offense."
When he became a head coach for the first time at Littlestown, Schieler brought York Catholic's switching man-to-man defense with him.
"I tried some York Catholic stuff at Littlestown, but it seemed like there were so many little details I was missing out on," he said. "When Joe joined me here (at Central), he pointed that out to me."
Joe Falci played and coached at York Catholic before joining the Central staff.
"Joe coached me at York Catholic, maybe not as head coach, but definitely as an assistant," Schieler said. "He has a passion for defense."
The players on this year's Central's team share the passion. The Panthers are allowing just 46.5 points a game, the third-best average in the 22-team York-Adams League.
"Defense, that's a major difference this year," Schieler said. "We're giving up 10 less points a game. Defense is easily 50 percent of our practices."
Both Schieler and Falci praise the players for their dedication to the less glamorous part of the game.
"The kids bought into it," Falci said. "We pressure the ball well, and not just in a full-court press, but in the half-court, too. Christian Wagman, another one of our assistants, also went to York Catholic. Eric Leese (another assistant) didn't go to York Catholic, but he knows the defense, and he's doing a really good job teaching it."
The defense has been outstanding. The offense, meanwhile, hasn't exactly been sketchy. The Panthers are scoring 62.9 points a game.
Both facets will need to be clicking for Central on Saturday when it takes on Carlisle in a District 3-AAAA quarterfinal game at the Giant Center in Hershey. The opening tip-off is set for 11:30 a.m. The winner earns a spot in the semifinals and a berth in the state playoffs. The teams met previously this season on Jan. 4, and Central won, 37-34.
"It was an ugly game," Schieler recalled. "We shot below 40 percent at the foul line, and we're a 70-percent-plus team at the line. We know they're (Carlisle) playing well, and they're not the same team we saw at the beginning of January. Of course, we think we're not the same team."
The Panthers are looking forward to their first game at the 10,000-plus seat arena.
"Our two goals going into this year were win the county championship and make it to the Giant Center," Central's Sam Saxton said. "It's really cool that we'll have a chance to play there."
If the first game is a barometer, Saxton and his teammates will see a lot of different defensive looks from Carlisle.
"It's a little harder to prepare for a team like that, and it takes more time because there's a lot of stuff to go over," Saxton said. "We just have to be aware at all times of what they're doing and make sure our communication is good."
Of course, the Panthers will count on their defense, which has been up to the challenges all season.
"I think what's made us solid on defense is being intense in practice, and that intensity carries over into games," Saxton said.
Saxton is Central's leading scorer at 15.6 points a game. He's followed by Royce Clemens (10.7) and Charlie Gingrich (9.8). Clemens and Saxton have combined for 73 3-point baskets.
Jordan Dockens pumps in 17.5 points a game for Carlisle, and J.D. Hughes delivers 10.7 a game. Hughes is a 6-foot, 6-inch senior.
Following are looks at other District 3 games involving York-Adams teams:
York High (19-6) vs. Wilson (24-2): The Bearcats will seek to take out the top-seeded Bulldogs. Jahaire Wilson (14.4) and Trey Shifflett (12.1) lead York, and Kristopher Johnson supplies 9.1 points a game for the Bearcats. Shifflett's knocked in 37 3-point shots. Travaun Coad (15.4), Jaylin Calloway (11.5) and Sam Smith (10.3) are the top scorers for the Berks League champions. Wilson's only losses were to Coatesville (67-63) and Whitehall (46-45).
West York (23-2) vs. Manheim Central (22-3): West York will need to tighten up the defense after giving up 83 to Milton Hershey in the opening round. Kevin Rice (14.8) and Darian McCauley (10.3) are the Bulldogs' top scorers. Manheim Central features a 6-4 junior, Matt Walsh, who averages 17 points a game, and a 6-7 freshman, Taylor Funk, who averages 11.8 a game. Dan Wiederrecht provides 11.1 a contest for the Barons.
Bermudian Springs (21-2) vs. Boiling Springs (20-3): When these teams met on Jan. 4, Boiling Springs pulled out a 46-45 victory, handing Bermudian its first loss of the season. Neil Murren and Alex Orwig are in double figures for the Eagles at 14.8 and 10.2, respectively, and Austin Hartzell and Alex Huntington are close at 9.8 and 9.7. Eric Contreras (12.8), B.J. McHenry (11.9) and Austin Pittenger (10.1) top the scoring chart for the Bubblers.
Hanover (17-6) vs. Upper Dauphin (13-10): Nick Trish (18.3) and Dylan Krieger (16.0) form a potent one-two combination for Hanover. Trish has connected on 46 3-point shots. Mac Ney (14.8) and Matt Miller (13.4) key Upper Dauphin's offense.
Delone Catholic (14-9) vs. Tulpehocken: Delone Catholic junior Devon Moore averages almost 20 points a game (19.9). Andrew Austin (10.1) and Jake Wiles (9.4) complement Moore. Tulpehocken looks to Zachery Connors (13.0) and Clifton Richardson (10.6).
York Catholic (11-11) vs. Columbia (14-8): York Catholic will travel to Columbia fresh off a 68-38 District 3 victory over Biglerville. Matt McKim (15.2) and Paul Martello (11.1) are twin-figure scorers for the Fighting Irish. Columbia will answer with the scoring of Marquel Wansley (13.4), Mike Rider (10.9) and Haaji Michael (10.8).
Dover (22-2) vs. Lebanon (20-5): York-Adams champion Dover bids to move into the District 3 AAAA semifinals. Alayah Hall, who's accounted for more than 1,500 career points in her brilliant career, leads Dover. Lebanon's scoring leader is Brittany Ulrich (12.1). Both teams play terrific defense. Lebanon is allowed 35.3 points a game, and Dover is giving up 38.
Red Lion (15-8) vs. Cumberland Valley (21-4): Morgan Kuehne (17.9) and Courtney Dimoff (12.3) are the No. 1 and No. 2 scorers, respectively, for Red Lion, which will bid to take down the No. 2-seeded team in the AAAA bracket. Maddie Torresin (15.7) and Kelly Jekot (14.6) are the leading players for the Mid-Penn champions. Torresin, a senior, will play Division I college ball at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Jekot, a 6-0 sophomore, already has seven Division I college offers.
Susquehannock (21-4) vs. West York (17-8): West York edged Susquehannock, 52-51, when the teams clashed early in the season (Dec. 12). Katie Wagner (14.5) and Shannon Druck (13.7) are one and two in scoring for the Warriors, the top-seeded team in the AAA bracket. Kari Lankford (13.8) is West York's leading scorer.
York Catholic (20-4) vs. Bishop McDevitt (7-15): York Catholic opens its quest for an unprecedented ninth consecutive District 3-AA title. Hannah Laslo leads a balanced Fighting Irish offense with an 11.3 points-per-game average. Rachel Corrigan scores 11.1 points a contest for Bishop McDevitt.
Delone Catholic (18-4) vs. Pequea Valley (10-12): Delone Catholic, aiming for a third game this season against York Catholic in the district final, receives a combined 30.2 points a game from Maddie Comly and Mary Gingrow. Pequea Valley counts on the scoring of Alyssa Hershey (16.7 a game).
— Reach Dick VanOlinda at firstname.lastname@example.org.