DALLASTOWN — It would seem like the Central York girls’ basketball team would enjoy a schedule that included nothing but contests against Susquehannock.
Conversely, the Warriors are probably pretty happy that they won’t have to see the Panthers anymore this season.
Entering Wednesday evening’s York-Adams League playoff semifinal contest with just two losses (both against Central), Coach Dave Schreiner’s Susquehannock team was excited to get one more opportunity against the Panthers.
The Division II champions appeared to have things figured out against the Division I runners-up early. But when the Panthers finally turned up the pressure defensively, the game flipped in favor of Central York for good.
Coach Scott Wisner’s team turned a three-point deficit after one quarter into a one-point lead by intermission. Despite the best efforts of the Warriors, the Panthers were able earn a 50-41 victory behind a 21-point performance from standout Emma Saxton.
The victory improved Central York’s record to 22-2. It also set up a third showdown with rival Red Lion, a 47-39 winner over Delone Catholic in the other semifinal, at 7 p.m. Friday at York College for the league title. The two teams split their regular-season meetings.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Wisner said, when asked if he would like to play Susquehannock all the time. “I knew that they were going to come out tonight with a chip on their shoulder — as they should having lost to us the first two times. They’re a very good team, and in the first half they pushed us.”
Central took control of the contest for good in the third period behind its defense and Saxton. The junior scored the first four points of the period to put the Panthers ahead 25-20. After taking advantage of a handful of Susquehannock miscues, Saxton and company were up by 11 (35-24) heading into the final period.
“Everything did come together the way we were capable of playing in the third quarter,” Wisner said.
The final eight minutes wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Panthers. Schreiner’s team was able to hit some big shots to draw within a couple baskets on five separate occasions. Jayla Galbreath knocked in a 3-pointer with 4:10 left to pull the Warriors within 38-32. Moments later it was Taylor Tannura (team-high 14 points) that drew her team within 39-35.
Saxton comes up big: Each time that Schreiner’s squad made it a game, however, Saxton was there to stop the Warriors' momentum. The Central York standout scored 11 points in the final stanza, with many of those points coming in response to Warrior baskets.
Perhaps the play that was most emblematic of the night for her team came with just more than 90 seconds left. Leading by seven points, teammate Katie Fabbri missed the second of two free throw attempts. But just when the Warriors were about to pull in the rebound, Saxton stepped in and hit a layup to extend the lead to nine (44-35).
“She’s a very good player,” Schreiner said. “A very good player. It’s not luck that she can spin and go to the basket and somehow it goes in. I’ve been watching her do that all season.”
Schreiner, however, can be relieved that his Warriors, the No. 5 seed in the upcoming District 3-AAA playoffs, won’t see the orange and black of Central anymore. The Panthers are the No. 4 seed in the District 3-AAAA bracket.
“Well, that’s one good thing,” Schreiner said jokingly.
While the Panthers can boast of handing the Warriors (21-3) all of their losses this season, Saxton admitted that it was never easy.
“We knew that we just had to stop them from hitting those 3-pointers,” she said. “A drive is OK, but no threes. But their whole team kept making threes (in the fourth quarter), so we just had to buckle down.”
Saxton was 5-for-5 from the free throw line in the final period.
“There are a lot of good players in the league, but (Emma) can do everything,” Wisner said. “She’s a threat both inside and out, and defensively she can guard anybody. Her intensity is great, her quickness is great. She’s a real commodity for us.”
Tickets: Central will sell ticket for the title game on Thursday and Friday, from 10:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. each day, in the high school lobby. Tickets will also be on sale at the door Friday. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.