In playoff atmosphere, Central York girls take down unbeaten Lancaster Catholic

The Panthers overcame a halftime deficit and handed the Crusaders a 57-50 defeat.

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

EMIGSVILLE — There are few local non-league contests between Class 6A and Class 3A teams that have both the intrigue and playoff-like feel that was in the air Thursday night at Central York High School.

Lancaster Catholic entered the night unbeaten and largely untested, with no game decided by fewer than 14 points so far this season. The Crusaders were one of just three teams in District 3 — Class 6A powers Cedar Cliff (17-0) and Lebanon (16-0) being the other two — but LC coach Charlie Detz knew his team would be in for a tall task against a Central York side that has cemented itself as one of the best squads in the area.

Behind the strong 1-2 play of juniors Mary Bolesky and Rylee Kraft, who combined for 23 points in the first half, the Lancaster Catholic girls got off to a terrific start and appeared destined to earn their most prolific victory of the season. That was until the Central York defense and the strong play of freshman guard Alivia McCaskell and senior forward Mackenzie Wright-Rawls helped turn the tide.

Wright-Rawls scored seven of her team-best 16 points in the third period as the Panthers erased a six-point deficit at the break. McCaskell finished things off with some help from teammate Emily Crouthamel as those two combined for 13 points in the fourth quarter to help the Panthers claim a very satisfying 57-50 triumph.

“This was a pretty big game,” Wright-Rawls said. “They’re a very good team and we knew they were undefeated, so we knew we had to take it to them.”

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

Early on, it was the Crusaders (16-1) doing the taking, as Kraft and Bolesky scored 11 of Lancaster Catholic's 14 points in the first period. That changed in the second half as those two were limited to just five made field goals.

“We knew we had to do something with their shooting,” Wright-Rawls said. “They were like at 50 percent in the first half, so we knew we had to step our defense.”

The Crusaders managed just 19 points total over the final 16 minutes of action. A great deal of that was the result of the aggressive Central York defense, but the LC girls missed a handful of makeable shots that could have kept them even.

On a different night, perhaps those shots fall and the result is different. That’s why, despite the result, Detz was happy for his girls to have the opportunity to take on one of the top teams in this area.

“In my opinion, if these weren’t the best two (teams in District 3), we’re both right up there,” Detz said. “We wanted this and we needed a game like this. And for awhile we did some things that they probably hadn’t seen and we benefitted from that. But they did some things to us that we weren’t used to seeing and that kind of got us out of our comfort zone.”

Part of that wrinkle was the effectiveness of Wright-Rawls and McCaskell in handing the LC pressure. With an all-state caliber point guard like Bella Chimienti on the floor, the Panthers (17-1) were forced into — but also comfortable — having Wright-Rawls and McCaskell take the pressure. In years past, that might have been a problem, but Wright-Rawls has become such an adept ballhandler this season that she and her coaches had no qualms allowing her to bring the ball up the court even those she’s a big forward and not a guard.

“We’ve noticed that teams have been double-teaming Bella a lot,” Wright-Rawls said. “Especially teams out of the league. So the coaches decided that we would have her just ready to shoot and start the offense after we got over half-court.”

If there was ever a test as to whether Wright-Rawls was up the task of it, it was Thursday. Displaying no panic, whenever the pressure came, the CY senior was savvy, using her height advantage to find an open teammate time after time.

“Yeah, I’m OK with it,” Wright-Rawls said with a smile.

Clearly stopping Chimienti, who managed just four points, was a big key for Detz and his squad.

“We face-guarded her, which we call special, and we didn’t want her to touch the ball,” Detz said of Chimienti. “And she had, what, (four) points? If you would have told me we held her to four points, I would have thought for sure that we would have won the game, but 32 (Wright-Rawls), 40 (Jazmine Paker) and 31 (McCaskell) … they all stepped up and that’s what those girls are supposed to do.”

Central York against Cumberland Valley during their girls basketball game in Springettsbury on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023.

The play of McCaskell caught the attention of everyone in attendance. Handling the pressure like an upperclassman, McCaskell proved to be one of the decisive factors in Central York's victory. She even earned the respect of the school’s student section — which was comprised of the entire boys’ basketball team along with CY boys’ coach Jeff Hoke. Several times down the stretch the student section let everyone know that "she’s a freshman."

Detz also pointed out that the Panthers owned the glass over the last three quarters. Parker, who finished with 11 points for the Panthers, finished with over 10 rebounds while Wright-Rawls grabbed 10 herself.

“In my nine years at Lancaster Catholic, I don’t think we’ve ever been outrebounded the way we were tonight,” Detz said. “That just doesn’t happen to us. We can’t give up 20 offensive rebounds and we’re a transition team. So, if we aren’t getting defensive rebounds, we can’t run in transition. They got rebounds and either scored or got fouled and that just shut down our transition game. That’s probably the biggest takeaway — we didn’t defend that glass, and that’s something we’re going to have to work on.”

McCaskell joined Parker at 11 points for the night, while Crouthamel finished with nine. Bolesky scored 23 and Kraft had 18 for the Crusaders.

Central York was playing its sixth game under acting head coach Sean Potts. Longtime Panthers coach Scott Wisner was hospitalized earlier this month with a brain mass. The team continues York-Adams Division I play Friday against South Western at home.