RED LION — Da’Trail Albert had been waiting all year to finally get the green light to suit up and play for his Dallastown boys’ basketball team.
At times this season, it was a roller-coaster ride for the senior to watch his team struggle without him on the court because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Recently, the Wildcat standout was finally cleared to get back on the court just in time for his team’s District 3 Class 6-A first-round showdown with York-Adams rival Central York.
Albert hoped to play meaningful minutes while helping his Dallastown team knock off the Panthers on Wednesday, Feb. 21.
It turns out he did a little bit more than just that.
Albert helped lead his team back from an improbable 18-point deficit in the second quarter. The Wildcat senior capped off a wild comeback by drilling a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left that helped Dallastown claim a thrilling 58-53 victory.
He finished with 14 points.
The No. 9 seeded Wildcats (14-9) will now move on to the quarterfinals Friday against top-seeded Reading (21-4). That contest will take place at the Geigle Complex in Reading at 7 p.m.
“Da’Trail was huge for us tonight,” Dallastown coach Mike Grassel said.
That was an understatement.
Falling into 18-0 hole: Albert and his team struggled — which may be putting it mildly — from the outset. The Panthers raced out to an 18-0 advantage that spanned into the second quarter.
The question at that point didn't seem if Central would prevail, but by how much.
Sometimes, however, the unlikeliest of comebacks get kick-started by a single play. Enter Albert, who knocked down a 3-pointer with a little more than four minutes left to play in the second quarter. It may not have seemed like a lot at that point, but Albert’s shot certainly got his team going in the right direction.
“We’ve been down before,” Albert said. “And we’ve come back. It’s a team game. We scored 16 points in the second quarter and held them to 25 points in the second half. It was really a team defensive effort.”
Chipping away: Albert and his teammates slowly chipped away at the deficit, getting big shots by Braden Caldwell, Will Barton (game-high 22 points) and Brandon McGlynn. The hole was trimmed to 12 points at the break (28-16) before getting to seven points (39-32) midway through the third quarter.
Suddenly, a game that looked like a blowout was turning into a nail-biter. The Wildcats managed to make it a two-possession game with just more than two minutes left in the third quarter. Then, with 6:52 left in the fourth, Dallastown knotted it up when Albert grabbed a defensive rebound before sending an outlet pass to Barton who made a layup to even the score at 45-45.
Central pushed the lead back to as many as six (53-47) before Dallastown mounted one last comeback. McGlynn (nine points) hit a layup and then two free throws to pull the Wildcats to within two. Moments after a big block by Justin Atwood kept the deficit at a basket, Caldwell (10 points) hit a jumper with 1:29 left to even the score. After a Central miss, Barton scored on a layup to put the Wildcats on top to stay.
“That’s a whole lot of seniors right there that didn’t want their season to end right there,” Grassel said.
Albert, who was cheered wildly by the Dallastown student section when he entered the game, admitted that he and his teammate may have let emotions affect them early.
“It was the first district game and my first game so it was just getting the butterflies out of our stomach,” he said. “After the first quarter we knew what we had to do.”
Central coach offers no excuses: While the thrill of the victory will remain in Dallastown’s heads forever, so too will it be remembered by the Panthers. With their school closed both Tuesday and Wednesday due to a threat, Central was forced to postpone the contest a night before moving it from their own gymnasium to the one at Red Lion High School.
Central York coach Kevin Schieler didn’t want to put any of the blame for Wednesday’s loss on those circumstances.
“They had to wait an extra day and they had to play in the same gym that we had to,” Schieler said. “I don’t think that had any impact on the game.”
Schieler gave a lot of the credit to Albert for bringing a different dynamic to the Dallastown lineup.
“They had two weeks off and they came out rusty, but once I saw Da’Trail check into the game, I know that he makes that team a lot different,” he said. “A lot of the credit to them.”
Braden Richard led Central (16-9) with 19 points while Garrett Markey chipped in 13 and Saa'hir Cornelius added 10 more for the Panthers in the setback, which ended the Panthers' season.
OTHER DISTRICT 3
York Country Day 59, High Point 48: At Spry, the fourth-seeded Greyhounds moved to the District 3 Class 1-A semifinals with the win at York Tech over fifth-seeded High Point.
YCD is the two-time defending District 3 1-A champion.
The Greyhounds' semifinal game is set for 8 p.m. Monday at Lower Dauphin. They will play the winner of Thursday's game between top-seeded Berks Christian (21-4) and eighth-seeded Lancaster County Christian (13-12).
YCD improved to 13-5. High Point finishes 17-7.
Cedar Cliff-Central York game moved to Red Lion: Because of the ongoing threat investigation at Central York High School, the District 3 Class 6-A girls' basketball quarterfinal game between Cedar Cliff and Central York has been moved.
The game was originally scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Central York. It will now be played at 7 p.m. Thursday at Red Lion.