With head coach sidelined, Central York girls' basketball holds off Red Lion

As head coach Scott Wisner remains in the hospital, the Panthers have continued to rally on the court.

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

EMIGSVILLE — It’s an exciting time to be a fan of the Central York girls’ basketball team. As one of the handful of teams throughout District 3 with an unbeaten record, the Panthers surely look like a team with tangible championship aspirations.

It’s also a somber time as well. Despite Central’s success on the court this year, the health and well-being of head coach Scott Wisner remains in the thoughts and prayers of the entire community.

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

Wisner, the Panthers' longtime coach, was recently diagnosed with a brain mass that has kept him hospitalized and off the Central York bench for over a week. This wasn't news for which anyone affiliated with the school or program was prepared; all that the players and their assistant coaches can do in these uncertain times is make the best of it.

While keeping their coach in their heads and hearts, the Central York girls began their second go-around in Division I of the York-Adams League on Monday against rival Red Lion. As has been the case all season, the Panthers displayed their mental toughness while taking on a feisty Lions squad.

It was definitely a struggle, as the visitors closed to within a point in the fourth quarter, but Central York prevailed. Led by 15 points from Mackenzie Wright-Rawls and 14 from Alivia McCaskell, the Panthers improved to 14-0 on the season and 7-0 in Division I with a 46-39 triumph.

“When you’re a team, people have to step up and do a job,” Central York interim head coach Sean Potts said.

Central York's Mackenzie Wright-Rawls (32) against Cumberland Valley's Sanai Hill (23) during their girls basketball game in Springettsbury on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023.

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It’s a been a roller coaster personally for Potts the past few weeks. He’s had to juggle the added responsibilities of continuing to lead a team that has yet to loss this season while also worrying about the health of his good friend and mentor.

“Today we faced some adversity on the court,” Potts said. “When you play against a team with (Red Lion coach Don) Dimoff that his team is going to play hard and they’re going to be in your face all game. He’s a ridiculously great coach. He knows what he’s doing and he’s going to come at you and he gets his players to completely buy into it.”

Fortunately for Potts, the senior-laden Panthers have been like that all season. That’s something that Potts, who didn’t clamor to become a head coach, has been grateful for during the unknown with Wisner’s health.

“Coach (Randy) Mumford had this great quote in the beginning of the season,” Potts said. “He said to Scott and I, ‘The only thing we can do is screw this up.’ The girls know what they’re doing. Bella (Chimienti) and Mackenzie …they’re, like, the smartest players I’ve ever coached, and that’s true with all of our seniors. They just take over the team. They all gather and help each other during tough times and they’re all so stoic. You look at them and there’s no emotion. They just have that stoic look on their face and maybe that helps, because I was never like that.”

Central York's Bella Chimienti, right, takes the ball to the basket while Red Lion's Riley Good defends during girls' basketball action at Central York High School in Springettsbury Township, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022.  Central York would win the game 44-41. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Chimienti, who leads the team in scoring at 12.8 points per game, was limited to just four Monday, all of which came in the fourth period. The Lions were clearly focused on limiting the Shippensburg recruit from getting open looks, but that left space for the forward Wright-Rawls and guard McCaskell. The duo combined for 29 points in the triumph.

The Panthers, who missed nine free throws through the first three quarters, were able to grind out the victory by knocking down 9 of 11 attempts in the final stanza.

The Lions (10-6, 4-3) kept things interesting over the last eight minutes. Red Lion closed to within 33-31 midway through the final period, but came up empty on two possessions with opportunities to even up the contest.

Red Lion's Bhrooke Axe drives against Penn Manor's Sydney Shepos in a District 3 Class 6-A seventh-place game at Red Lion Wednesday, March 2, 2022. Red Lion held on to win 41-37. Bill Kalina photo

“I know that we can play with the best teams in the district and the state,” Dimoff said. “We played Central and (undefeated) Cedar Cliff close but we ended up with two losses. And that doesn’t do us any good because we’re Red Lion and we’re supposed to win games like that and not just play people close.”

The Lions were only able to get five players in the scorebook all night, but got balanced scoring from four players — Bhrooke Axe (10), Kamauri Gordon-Bey (9), Tatiana Virata (9) and Maddie Sechrist (8).

“We had some answers for (their box-and-one defense), but we just didn’t finish,” Dimoff said. “I think we did a decent job attacking, but some things just didn’t go our way on a couple of things. We had it down to a one-point game, but turned it over twice. We made a foul at half-court, had a bad defensive assignment and then all of a sudden we’re down seven and that’s too good of a team over there to give them extra chances.”

Dimoff, who has coached many games against Wisner over the past two decades, wished that the Central coach was on the sideline for Monday’s battle.

“I’m sure if he was watching that he was probably yelling at the screen,” Dimoff said. “And obviously from myself and my entire team, we just wish the best for him. I’ve known Scott for a long time. I probably coached against him 1,000 times, so we’re pretty good friends and I hope the best for him.”

Central York coach Scott Wisner talks to his team during a timeout against Central Dauphin's Caroline Shiery during District 3 Class 6-A girls' basketball final action at the Giant Center Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. Central lost the title game 40-36. Bill Kalina photo