BASKETBALL

Determined Central York girls' basketball team off to roaring start

The Panthers are 3-0 with blowout wins over established programs.

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

EMIGSVILLE — After a successful campaign that resulted in a 22-7 overall record and a second-round appearance in the PIAA Class 6A tournament, few would fault the Central York girls’ basketball team for feeling somewhat content.

But not the Panthers themselves. With four starters returning for the 2022-23 season, Central York is anything but content.

“They are all very motivated,” Panthers coach Scott Wisner said moments after his team scored a 61-34 victory over Governor Mifflin Tuesday evening to improve to 3-0. “After last year, losing to Bermudian in counties and then they go on to win the championship, the girls saw that and said, 'Maybe if we could have pulled that out, you see what could have happened.'”

Central York's Bella Chimienti tries to save a loose ball in front of Dallastown's Olivia Stein during action at Dallastown Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. Dallastown would win 46-36, clinching the York-Adams Division I championship.  Bill Kalina photo

Wisner’s squad also failed to capture the York-Adams Division I title, falling a game short of Dallastown, another bit of disappointment for a program that has really flourished over the past three years. Throw in the fact that the Panthers have not won a Y-A tournament title during that span (there was no draw in 2021 due to the pandemic) and Wisner’s girls know this is their last chance to make amends.

“We lost to Gettysburg in the semifinals (in 2020), which was their freshman seasons,” Wisner said. “And there was no tournament the next year, so this is their one final opportunity. So they are really focused on accomplishing that, and hopefully we have the type of year that we want to have.”

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While experience is certainly one of Central York's top keys this season, so is talent. With senior point guard Bella Chimienti leading the way, Wisner feels good about where his team is so far, especially considering the Panthers only had two weeks of practice before the season tipped off last weekend.

Central York basketball's Bella Chimienti at the high school winter sports media day 1 in York on Nov. 9, 2022.

To no one’s surprise, Chimienti, who led the team with 14.2 points per game last season, has run the offense at a high level so far in three blowout victories over Central Dauphin (58-32), Lampeter-Strasburg (62-20) and Governor Mifflin. Even better for Wisner is that Chimienti hasn’t had to shoulder the majority of the scoring.

Marley Bond scored a team-best 17 points in the victory over Central Dauphin, the defending District 3 Class 6A champions, on opening night Friday. Emily Crouthamel tied Chimienti for scoring honors with 13 points against Lampeter-Strasburg on Saturday in the finals of Penn Manor's tip-off tournament.

Central York basketball coach Scott Wisner at the high school winter sports media day 1 in York on Nov. 9, 2022.

“I felt pretty confident going into (last weekend),” Wisner said. “Obviously Central Dauphin graduated a lot of strong kids from last year’s team, but it’s still a super program. I’m just super happy with how hard we played. And we just have a lot more ability than Lampeter-Strasburg did, so I think we all expect us to do well against them. Still, I was really pleased with what we got as a collective team from everybody.”

Another key for the Panthers is the play of senior forward Makenzie Wright-Rawls. At a shade over 6 feet in height, Wright-Rawls is the only true big that Wisner has at his disposal. Her defense has always been her calling card since her freshman season, but improvement in other areas of Wright-Rawls’ game has been somewhat significant.

“A lot of teams are going to have some difficulty matching up with her,” Wisner said. “She can handle the ball really well for a 6-footer, so we’ve been trying to turn that into a mismatch and we’re comfortable doing that. I also think that now she’s a little bit more aggressive attacking the basket, and I think her passing has gotten a little bit better as well. Defensively, it’s kind of hard for her to improve because she’s just so good in there.”

Central York basketball's Mackenzie Wright-Rawls at the high school winter sports media day 1 in York on Nov. 9, 2022.

While Tuesday’s victory over Governor Mifflin was not close, Wisner pointed out that the Mustangs were missing a couple of key starters that would have made the contest more competitive. And the visitors still presented a challenge for the Panthers' defense.

“There are not many teams like them that can shoot the 3-pointer as well as they do,” Wisner said. “They have some kids that can shoot it, so that means we had to spread out our 2-3 defense a little bit and they were able to get a few shots. So it’s just good to be able to play against a team like that.”

Central will have a few days to practice before Saturday’s showcase game against another non-league foe in Bloomsburg High School at Elizabethtown College in the Elizabethtown Classic. After that, however, the Panthers will be throw into the gauntlet that is Division I this season.

Next Tuesday, the Central York girls will travel to Red Lion for their division opener. That is followed up next Friday with a home game against Dallastown. In two weeks, the Panthers will travel to take on an up-and-coming York High squad that Wisner figures to be vastly improved.

That stretch will set the tone for the division race ahead, and Central is ready to make a statement.

“You know that Red Lion is going to bring it hard at us,” Wisner said. “Red Lion and Dallastown are always strong and York High is getting better, so there are going to be a lot of highly contested games that we’re going to have to make sure that we come out prepared for.”