BASKETBALL

Central York boys' basketball overcomes another slow start to beat Central Dauphin

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

EMIGSVILLE — The Central York boys’ basketball team was looking to stay hot off the heels of a big-time victory over York High on Friday evening.

Taking on a Central Dauphin outfit that desperately needed a win to continue to have a shot at a berth into the District 3 Class 6A tournament next month, the Panthers didn’t get off to the best of starts Monday.

The good news is that, a lot of the time, it's not how you start but how you finish that matters most. The Central York boys certainly did that Friday and they did it again against the Rams. Led by a big night from sophomore Ben Rill, the Panthers broke up a close contest in the second half before cruising to a 63-51 home triumph.

Central York against Dallastown during their boys basketball game in Springettsbury on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023.

“We struggle to start games with the type of intensity that we need to,” Central York coach Jeff Hoke said after his team improved to 13-5. “And we haven’t quite figured it out yet. Call it youth or call it being lackadaisical … we’ve tried different lineups, different defenses and called different plays, but it’s been tough.”

The Rams played the Panthers even through the first period and actually held a three-point lead (21-18) with 5:20 left in the first half. An 11-2 run, however, catapulted the CY boys into the lead they never would relinquish.

Part of the reason was the effort of Rill, who led all scorers with 23 points on the evening. The 6-foot-8 forward presented a big challenge for Central Dauphin inside, as he scored seemingly at will in the second half, where he poured in 15 of his points.

“I think we played really well in the second half,” Rill said. “We maybe were a little sluggish in the first half, but we played as a team in the second half. Day in and day out, we’re trying to build team chemistry and obviously tonight was a great win for us.”

While Hoke doesn’t feel his team has yet come close to realizing its full potential, he did mention that he loves how unselfish his team has been throughout the year. With Rill and 6-foot-7 junior Greg Guidinger (13 points), the Panthers feature two young NCAA Division I prospects. That pair, however, is surrounded by young and talented starters and bench players that make playing Central York a tough chore for any opponent.

“I love how unselfish our guys are,” Hoke said. “Greg Guidinger … he can score at will. Ben Rill can score at will. Ben Natal (nine points) can score at will. They all could if they really wanted to be selfish, but they don’t care who scores and that shows. That gives our role players and our freshmen a change to step up.”

Central York against Dallastown during their boys basketball game in Springettsbury on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023.

The Panthers only have one senior on the roster, and that senior just happens to be the injured Ethan Dodson. Dodson was averaging just over 14 points a game when he injured his arm in the first half against Father Judge over a month ago. He’s been shelved ever since and, with a bit of good luck, may be cleared to play again in about three weeks.

So, it’s somewhat of a bummer that the Panthers will host their senior night Tuesday against Spring Grove with their only senior sidelined.

Perhaps.

“Mum is the word,” Hoke said before smiling. “No, we’re absolutely going to get him out there (Tuesday).”

Outside the team room after Monday’s victory, it was clear to everyone in the hallway that the Central York boys were excited about seeing Dodson get a chance to take the court against Spring Grove despite still having his arm in a hard cast. The screams, yells and chants emanating from the room proved that.

So, too, was the realization that the team not only all but secured a York-Adams League tournament berth with Friday’s victory, but they control their own destiny in terms of earning the top seed from Division I to boot. That’s a far cry from last season, when an injury to Guidinger coincided with a 1-9 start to the season. With Guidinger back, the Panthers won 10 of their final 12 games, but still missed qualifying for the postseason entirely.

Rill, who attended Westtown School last season as a freshman, wasn’t on that team, but he knows how big it is for his teammates to be in position to claim a handful of titles potentially in the near future.

“We’re young,” Rill said. “Just one senior, which is crazy. And we only have two juniors with the rest of us being sophomores and freshman. We have a lot of years ahead of us. So a bright future, but also an exciting present for sure.”