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A one-sided contest got a lot closer than Central York had hoped for, but in the end, the Panthers prevailed with a 57-37 victory over Wilson in a District 3-AAAA girls’ basketball first-round game Tuesday night at Central.

The victory helped ease the sting of last week’s York-Adams League title loss to Red Lion and last year’s first-round District 3 loss to Hempfield. No. 4 seed Central (23-3) advances to Friday night’s quarterfinals against No. 5 seed Harrisburg (19-4) at 5 p.m. at Penn Manor. The Cougars dismantled No. 12 seed Manheim Central in their first-round contest, 64-45..

Central enjoyed a 19-point halftime advantage, but slowly saw that margin slip to just eight points in the early seconds of the fourth quarter before the Panthers went on a 10-1 run to pull away.

“That’s happened to us before this season,” said Central sophomore Nikson Valencik, who led all scorers with 19 points. “We just had to keep our composure and run our offense and things worked out.”

That they did. When Wilson got to within 43-35 after scoring nine unanswered points, it was Valencik who ended the drought with a bucket, followed by a balanced Panthers’ attack that frustrated the Bulldogs (14-11).

“The tough thing about them is they’re balanced and they can put five people out there that can score,” Wilson coach Doug Myer said. “Most teams have two, maybe three players who can score, but even No. 14 (Nykkoya Stanton) came off the bench and knocked down three big threes for them in the first half. But I was proud of our kids. We turned up the defensive intensity in the second half, and we attacked their zone a little bit better, but I think the last four or five minutes we just ran out of gas. But give them credit, they run their offense well and they’re just very balanced.”

That balance was on display in the first half when Central jumped out to a 34-15 lead. Six players scored in the opening 16 minutes. Stanton was the leading scorer at that point with three 3-pointers. An 11-2 run at the end of the first quarter, highlighted by Stanton’s first 3-pointer at the buzzer, gave Central a cushion that it maintained in the second stanza. She made two more in the second quarter to help Central build a 32-11 advantage — its biggest of the game — before Wilson rallied in the final half.

“That’s kind of the way it goes sometimes when you have a big lead, kids get a little too comfortable and a little complacent,” Central coach Scott Wisner said. “And they came out in the third quarter and definitely went after it like I knew they would. So I was glad to see us hang on and persevere at the end. This was a big win for our program because we got to this point last year and didn’t win, so now we have the opportunity to move forward.”

Wisner added he was a little concerned about how his team would react after the heartbreaking 35-34 loss to Red Lion in Friday night’s York-Adams title game.

“We hadn’t been able to get on the court, either, because we didn’t have school, so you’re always worried about those sorts of things, so I was glad to see we came out with intensity and started the game strong. Our balance has been our hallmark all year … we need contributions from both our starters and bench and that's what happened. Stanton is kind of streaky, but when she gets it going (3-point shooting), she’s been a big plus and she was tonight.”

OTHER GIRLS' BASKETBALL

Governor Mifflin 44, New Oxford 39: At Governor Mifflin, the Colonials dropped the Class AAAA District 3 first-round match-up. Kaelyn Long led the Colonials with 13 points. Teammate Presley Berryhill knocked in 12 points. New Oxford (15-9) has now been eliminated from the tournament.

Reach George Hammond at sports@yorkdispatch.com.

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