For being just five days into the 2017-18 high school basketball season, the York-Adams League Division I boys' basketball battle between Dallastown and Central York on Tuesday, Dec. 12, felt as close to a playoff atmosphere as you can get this early in the season.
The student sections from both schools were lively, the gym at Central York High School was packed and both teams knew there was plenty on the line.
When it came down to the play on the court, however, it was the Panthers who nearly went wire-to-wire with the victory, prevailing 70-58 to improve to 2-1 overall and 1-0 in D-I. The Wildcats are 1-2 and 0-1.
"The student sections and the big crowd made it a fun atmosphere, but it's Dec. 12," Central York head coach Kevin Schieler said. "Every year, there's teams who struggle to find themselves early in the year and then end up making big postseason runs, so this was business as usual. It was our first league game and we're happy to be 1-0 in the league, but we know there's a lot more basketball games to be played before February."
If not for a quick 4-0 start by Dallastown, the Panthers would've led for the entirety. Following that burst out of the gates by the visitors, Central York responded in a big way.
Panthers take control: The Panthers closed out the first quarter on a 23-5 run, sparked by the hot shooting of Landyn Ray, to lead by 14 at the end of the first quarter. Ray scored 12 of his 15 points in the opening frame on perfect 5 for 5 shooting, which included a pair of 3-pointers. He also tracked down a full-court heave with two seconds left that caromed off the backboard. He put home the rebound as the buzzer sounded.
"My teammates were finding me and I was feeling it," Ray said about his hot start. "When the ball was finding me, it felt good."
After the first quarter, Ray got plenty of help from his teammates.
By halftime, the Wildcats cut the deficit to 35-25 and eventually trimmed the Central lead to as little as five early in the third quarter. However, that was as close as Dallastown would get. The Panthers closed the third quarter on another big run, this time 14-4, to lead by 15 going into the fourth.
"Little things were compounding on themselves," Wildcats' head coach Mike Grassel said about allowing Central to go on big scoring runs. "We gotta take care of the ball and instead of answering one of their made buckets with a good, solid possession, we'd rush or turn the ball over and then the problem compounded itself."
Dallastown played the fouling game in the fourth, forcing the Panthers to make their free throws. Central made 15 of 23 from the line in the fourth quarter.
A Braden Richard alley-oop slam with 2 minutes, 4 seconds to play extended the Panthers' lead to 62-47, putting an emphasis on the victory.
Balanced Panthers: Central York had four different players reach double figures, led by Garrett Markey's team-high 18 points. He was joined by Ray's 15, Richard's 14 and Cade Pribula's 10.
If there's one area that the Panthers will look to improve, it'll be preventing the opposition from getting good looks around the basket. One constant that Dallastown did have going for it was getting to the hoop for close looks. Fortunately for Central, the Wildcats didn't finish regularly, which could've kept them within striking distance.
"It was something we talked about at halftime and I thought we did a pretty good job of taking that away in the third quarter," Schieler said. "But, we got sloppy at the end of the game and they got to the rim on us, so that's something we're definitely going to have to fix for next time."
Braden Caldwell led Dallastown with a game-high 19 points, while Nike McGlynn finished with 10.
For both teams, the early-season match-up was a good test to see where each team is at in their progression three games into the year.
The Panthers have the good fortune of coming out of it as winners, while the Wildcats must quickly rebound, as they travel to Elizabethtown on Wednesday for their fourth consecutive road game to start the season.
"You want to play against good competition and I'd rather be on coach Schieler's side of things," Grassel said. "But, it's a good test, it tells us where we're at and what we need to work on, but we got a game tomorrow night, so the compact schedule doesn't do anybody any favors."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org