York High's Ramel Stephens underwent a major makeover in the offseason.
Stephens spent the summer working on every facet of his game on the court at the Salvation Army.
The 6-foot, 1-inch forward, who averaged just 2.4 points a game as a junior, spent countless hours in the building at the corner of East King and South Duke streets, striving to become a key contributor for the Bearcats in his senior year.
The work paid off.
Stephens is averaging 12.4 points a game this year, and he scored a career-high 23 points on Tuesday night to help York High turn back an inspired Central York team, 76-71.
"Twenty-three points is good, but you have to look at what your teammates did and what they contributed, too," Stephens said. "You can never get your head too high. You need to stay humble and hungry."
Stephens slashed through the defense to score on layups and short jumpers. He connected on nine field goals and was 5-for-6 from the foul line.
Stephens did all the scoring coming off the bench. The sixth-man role is his choice.
"I like coming off the bench," he said. "I score more, and I get to see everything. I know where to be at the right time, and I know where the soft spots are in the defense."
Stephens, Derek Wilson (21 points) and Tavon Parker (17 points) combined for 61 of the Bearcats' points.
Darian Hampton led Central with 21 points. Andrew Sauers and Royce Clemens supplied 16 and 10 points, respectively, for the Panthers.
Central hung with the Bearcats in the fast-paced game, even overcoming a 10-point, second-half deficit to forge ties at 54 and 60.
York High then ran off nine straight points to gain the necessary breathing room. Stephens broke the 60-60 deadlock with a layup, and Wilson followed by nailing a 3-point shot from the left corner.
"Central played an outstanding game," York High head coach Troy Sowers said. "I thought we had some shots contested, but they made shots, deep threes and pull-ups. That was a great shooting performance by Central."
The Panthers connected on 31-of-56 attempts (55.4 percent). York High wasn't too shabby, either, when it came to shooting the ball. The Bearcats were 31-of-60 (51.7 percent).
"We handled ourselves well down the stretch" Sowers said. "We were up by four of five points with three minutes to play, and we only had one turnover the rest of the way. We didn't shoot any bad shots, and we made good decisions."
Despite the loss, Central coach Kevin Schieler was pleased with his team's effort.
"I thought we handled some of their runs really well," Schieler said. "This is not the friendliest environment to play in. They scored seven points in the first 30 seconds of the second half, but we went right back at them. I was happy with the way we responded."
Sowers was happy that his team found a way to win on a night when it seemed like Central couldn't miss.
"Luckily, we did just enough to pull it out at the end," he said. "Sometimes, you have to win like that."
OTHER BOYS' BASKETBALL
WEST YORK 73, DOVER 63: At West York, the Bulldogs picked up their first victory of the season behind 23 points from Kevin Rice. West York jumped on top 22-5 at the end of the first quarter and held on. Roque Lopez added 13 points for the winners, while Brock Snellbaker scored 12. Josh McMahon led Dover with 17 points, followed by Jared Mummert (12), Ryan Beck (10) and Malec Snyder (10).
SOUTH WESTERN 57, SPRING GROVE 36: At Spring Grove, South Western broke open a close game with a 22-6 fourth-quarter surge. Parker Bean led the winners with 27 points, while Mike Duffy added 13. Logan Hagerman had 10 points to lead Spring Grove.
EASTERN YORK 61, LITTLESTOWN 43: At Wrightsville, the home team jumped out to a 35-21 halftime lead and held on. Dalton Reichard led the winners with 21 points, while Grum Kebede added 13. Brandon Becker (16) and Ryan Kehr (14) combined for 30 of Littlestown's points.
YORK CATHOLIC 50, HANOVER 37: At Hanover, the home team jumped out to a 15-5 first-quarter lead, but York Catholic dominated the middle two periods, 33-11, to earn the victory. Erich Hartman scored 12 points to pace the Irish. Dylan Krieger (13) and Drew Vogel (11) each hit double digits for Hanover.
NORTHEASTERN 61, YORK SUBURBAN 47: The host Bobcats led 36-21 at halftime and kept pace with visiting Suburban the rest of the way to get the win. Northeastern improved to 4-0 overall. Khalid Nwandu and Derrick Hoffman each scored 19 points to lead the Bobcats. The Trojans got 19 points from Evan Eberhardinger, while C.J. Boxley (12 points) and P.J. McClane (10) combined for 22 points.
NEW OXFORD 49, KEN NARD-DALE 38: At New Oxford, Zach Wildasin led the home team 17 points, while Wes Beans knocked in 11. For the Rams, Vince Failla scored 13 points and Ryan Trott scored 11.
DELONE CATHOLIC 75, YORK TECH 34: At McSherrystown, Andrew Austin led the Squires with 24 points. Devon Moore scored 20 points for Delone, while Devin Arnold knocked in 10 points. For the Spartans, Ronald Henderson scored 13 points.
BERMUDIAN SPRINGS 43, SUSQUEHANNOCK 34: At York Springs, the Eagles jumped out to a 21-4 first-quarter lead. Neil Murren led the winners with 14 points, while Austin Hartzell knocked in 11. For the Warriors, Justin McLee scored 13 points, while Dan Ferraro scored 10.
RED LION CHRISTIAN 78, NEW COVENANT CHRISTIAN 67: At New Covenant Christian, the Swordsmen trailed 33-28 at the end of the first half, but recovered in the third quarter to outscore New Covenant Christian, 31-18. Corbin Willard led the Swordsmen with 28 points and 10 assists. Jake Myers scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Chance Thompson scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
HARRISBURG CHRIS TIAN 51, CHRISTIAN SCHOOL OF YORK 42: At York, Bryce Zirkle scored 13 points and Austen Smith added 10 for CSY in the loss.
-- Reach Dick VanOlinda at dvanolinda@yorkdis patch.com.