DALLASTOWN -- The Northeastern boys' volleyball team was in an unusual position in Tuesday's York-Adams League Tournament championship game vs. rival Central York.
Down 2-1 after three games, the Bobcats found themselves on the ropes at Dallastown High School. As the Panthers soon discovered, however, being on the ropes is entirely different than getting knocked out.
The regular-season league champion responded after dropping Game 2 and Game 3 by routing Central in Game 4 to even the contest. Once the Bobcats got on a roll again, there wasn't much the Panthers could do to sidetrack them.
Northeastern broke open an 8-8 deadlock in Game 5 and closed out a thrilling battle between two of the top programs in the state with a 25-19, 18-25, 20-25, 25-16, 15-11 triumph.
"This was our chance to finally say who the best team in York is," said Northeastern coach Matt Wilson, whose team downed the Panthers in four games last Thursday in Manchester. "Without question."
Many expected last week's season finale, which allowed the Bobcats to wrap up the regular-season league crown with an unbeaten record, to go the distance. While that one didn't, this one didn't disappoint.
"That was a marathon match," said Northeastern's Stephen Braswell of Tuesday's meeting. "Give it up to both teams right there. We both battled."
After the Bobcats cruised in Game 1, Central coach Brad Livingston switched up his rotation. The change worked almost immediately. The Panthers jumped out to leads in both Game 2 and Game 3.
"Sometimes you do that and see how it goes," Livingston said.
After falling behind 2-1, it was time for Wilson to respond in kind. He switched things back to the way they were in Game 1.
"We flip-flopped our lineup," Wilson said. "It was a little bit better matchups for us, but we also passed a lot better and sort of came alive, too, a little bit."
Perhaps as important as the rotation changes were the contributions from role players Casey Winand (three kills, seven blocks) and Phil White (four kills, four blocks). Both stepped up with their blocking at the net, as well as on the attack.
"Casey, especially in the fourth game and the fifth game, had four blocks by just getting up with us," said Braswell, who tallied 13 kills to go with three blocks and 17 digs. "He got out there and really stepped up in that game and that was huge for us."
White, just a sophomore, mixed in a solid night from the service line with his play at the net, which drew praise from Wilson.
"Philip had a decent game last week (against Central)," Wilson said. "But he didn't block well a week ago. Tonight he had a nice match. And Casey, I thought, came through with some clutch swings and blocks, too."
Freshman Reese Devilbiss led the Bobcats with 15 kills, to go with three blocks, 13 digs and an ace. Setter Luke Braswell dished out 41 assists while mixing in six blocks and 10 digs.
The victory overshadowed nice matches from two Panthers, setter Dylan Hose and outside hitter Royce Clemens. Hose came up with several key plays, particularly a handful of blocks in Game 2 and Game 3, while Clemens was a menace every chance he had to put a ball away.
"Dylan is a great kid," Livingston said. "He worked hard and deserves all the success that he has. And Royce ... I looked up in Game 3 and saw him in the front row and I was hoping we could keep him there and get hot and go from there. But it didn't work out that way."
Both teams earned their rematch after decisive sweeps in the semifinals. The Bobcats took care of York Suburban, 25-13, 25-9, 25-13, while the Panthers ousted Dallastown, 25-12, 25-12, 25-18.
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.