RED LION — After the first 13 games of this season, the Central York boys' basketball team had a so-so 7-6 record.
That was not nearly good enough for the players and coaches from a program that played in the last three York-Adams League Tournament championship games.
Time for a meeting.
"We had just lost to Dallastown on Friday night, and we had Carlisle coming up on Saturday," Central head coach Kevin Schieler recalled. "We had a shoot around scheduled, but we scrapped that, and we sat down and a had a group talk. The seniors have done a nice job responding to the talk, and this has been a nice turnaround."
The Panthers, who were struggling at midseason, are headed to York College and a fourth consecutive appearance in the league title game. They'll take on Northeastern in the final on Friday night..
Central earned its place in the championship with a 53-45 victory over Spring Grove on Wednesday night in front of a jam-packed house at Red Lion High School.
Courtney Batts, a senior, led the Panthers with 14 points. Evan Czulada, another senior, supplied 10 points.
"It's a big accomplishment to get there (York College) four straight years," Batts said. "Coach sat us down, especially the five seniors, and told us we have to rely on the team. We bonded, and look where we are now."
Central got off to a slow start against Spring Grove, trailing 18-13 at the end of the first quarter. The Panthers rebounded and outscored the Rockets, 15-5 in the second quarter to take a five-point lead at halftime.
Batts gave his team the lead for good when he connected on a 3-point shot to erase a one-point deficit and put the Panthers on top, 22-20.
Spring Grove didn't fade away, but the Rockets could never regain the advantage.
The 6-foot, 4-inch Czulada helped keep the Panthers ahead by scoring six of his 10 points in the final quarter. All three of his buckets came in the paint.
"We have a set offense we run to get the ball inside," Czulada said. "My teammates gave me some good passes, and I was able to finish."
Czulada is looking forward to again take the trip across town to York College's Wolf Gymnasium.
"It means a lot. We turned this program around. Most of it's due to coach Schieler. He's done a great job. We're glad we're going back there, and we're ready to win."
The victory gave the Panthers a victory in the rubber game this season between the two York-Adams Division I rivals.
Spring Grove star Eli Brooks, who's connected for more than 2,000 career points, led all scorers on Wednesday night with 30 points.
The Rockets played without a starter, Drew Gordon, who has pneumonia.
"He's our primary ball handler, and a two-year starter," Spring Grove coach James Brooks said. "It's tough when you take your primary ball handler and your second- or third-leading scorer out of the lineup."
Central York improved to 17-7. Spring Grove fell to 18-6.
Tickets: Central will have an advance ticket sale for the title game on Thursday and Friday in the high school atrium from 10:45 a.m until 1 p.m. each day. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students. Tickets will only be sold at the door if they are not sold out at the schools involved before Friday evening.
Reach Dick VanO'Linda at email@example.com.