The top two girls' basketball teams in the York-Adams League — Central York and Red Lion — will square off Friday evening for the third time this season.
This time, there will be a lot more riding on the outcome.
This time, the winning players can call themselves York-Adams League champions.
The Panthers (22-2) punched their ticket to the final at York College at 7 p.m. Friday after downing Division II champion Susquehannock on Wednesday, 50-41.
The Lions (22-2) followed Central’s triumph with a gritty 47-39 triumph over Division III co-champion Delone Catholic in the second game of a doubleheader at Dallastown High School.
“It’s going to be an absolute knock-down battle for sure,” Central York coach Scott Wisner said. “But we’re also excited to get there.”
Central, which finished 12-2 in Division I, has not won the league title since 1999. That year also marked the last time the Panthers won a division title.
Regular-season split: Wisner and company are hoping to break that 17-year drought after finishing a game behind Red Lion (13-1) in the division standings. The two teams split their regular-season meetings — Red Lion won the first contest, 46-37, while Central claimed the most recent showdown, 43-36.
Despite defeating Coach Don Dimoff’s Lions about two weeks ago, Wisner doesn’t believe that result will hold much water come Friday night.
“We split during the year so we know we’re pretty close,” Wisner said. “And it’s Red Lion. Coach Dimoff is going to have his team prepared. They’re a great team. They’re going to come out with a lot of intensity. It’s going to come down to who really plays the best game.”
Dimoff, who is looking to add a league-best 11th league title into the program’s history and the ninth since he took over as head coach back in 1993, agreed with Wisner that the previous two showdowns won’t mean much come Friday.
“Honestly I think you can throw out what happened the first two games,” Dimoff said. “I think what you can take away from those games is that both teams are evenly matched.”
Strength vs. strength: The rubber match between the top two teams in the league (if not district or state) will be one of strength vs. strength. The Panthers lead the league in scoring offense at 55.0 points per game. On the other hand, the Lions enter with the No. 3 ranked scoring defense. They hold opponents to just 34.1 points a night.
While those two top-ranked sides battle, the game may very well come down to Red Lion’s offense against the Central York defense. Wisner’s team is no pushover defensively. The Panthers hold opponents to just 38.0 points a contest, sixth-best in the league. Dimoff’s squad averages 48.5 points a game, seventh-best in the league.
“I know that they have Emma (Saxton) and we have Courtney (Dimoff) and that those two can score points, but I think both teams have kids that are more than capable of stepping up and scoring points,” Coach Dimoff said. “I know that we’ve had some different people lead us in scoring and that (Wisner) has had different people lead them in scoring. We’re both pretty balanced defensively and offensively and I think that there are actually a lot of similarities between the two teams.”
Star players: Friday’s contest will also pit two of the top candidates for Division I Player of the Year against one another in Saxton and Courtney Dimoff.
“They’re both very, very good players,” Coach Dimoff said. “And I don’t think it’s a surprise that those two, along with their teammates, were able to get their teams to the finals.”
Saxton is coming off a terrific 21-point showing against Susquehannock in the semifinals. Scoring, however, is just one of the many ways in which the junior standout, who averages 14.1 points per game, can hurt an opponent.
Saxton is an underrated rebounder, a gifted ball-handler and an above-average defender. She can also hit free throws in the clutch, which she demonstrated Wednesday when she knocked down all five of her attempts in the fourth 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.”
Much of the same can be said of Dimoff, a Millersville University recruit. Dimoff, who led her team with 19 points against Delone in the semifinals, is the top 3-point shooter in the league with 62 on the season. She is also the top free-throw shooter in the league (minimum 10 attempts) at 88.5 percent (69 for 78).
While averaging 14.7 points per game, Dimoff is more than just an offense-only player. She is very good at finding open teammates, a good defender and she is also one of the team’s leaders on the court.
“Courtney is a very good passer,” Coach Dimoff said. “She gets things moving for us.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.
Nikson Valencik, 9.7 ppg
Emma Saxton, 14.1 ppg
Sarah Sepic, 7.2 ppg
Lydia Shellenberger, 2.7 ppg
Mady Williams, 5.0 ppg
Katie Fabbri, 4.0 ppg
Teirra Preston, 7.1 ppg
Natalie Reba, 6.5 ppg
Amy Maciejewski, 9.0 ppg
Courtney Dimoff, 14.7 ppg
Taylor Funke, 4.2 ppg
Kami Harvey, 4.3 ppg
Hannah Wolf, 3.6 ppg
Kynslee Shepherd, 3.6 ppg