EMIGSVILLE — A year ago, the Central York boys’ basketball team was forced to relocate a District 3 Class 6-A home playoff game to Red Lion High School because of a bomb scare.
With no such issues this year, the Panthers were happy to be playing in their home gym for a first-round clash with Warwick on Tuesday evening.
The "real" home-court advantage proved to be a big benefit for the Panthers.
The Panthers broke open a 7-5 contest with a 9-0 run to take a comfortable lead they would never relinquish. Led by a game-high 20 points from Alex Salter as well as double-figure scoring by three others, the Central boys advanced to the quarterfinals with a convincing 82-51 triumph over the Warriors.
The seventh-seeded Panthers (18-6) will travel to No. 2 seed Chambersburg (19-5) Friday evening at 7 p.m., with the winner clinching a berth into the PIAA playoffs. Chambersburg had a first-round bye.
“We just shot the ball unbelievably tonight,” CY coach Kevin Schieler said. “The guys brought it when they needed to.”
Last year still fresh in their minds: Despite holding a 23-9 advantage after one quarter, there was no sense that any of the Central players were looking ahead. They only needed to look back to last year’s district game at Red Lion vs. Dallastown to know why. The Wildcats, who trailed 18-0 after a quarter, rallied to pull off an improbable comeback that no Central player, nor Schieler, will ever forget.
“We actually talked about last year’s game before this one here tonight,” Schieler said.
Schieler’s big point of emphasis was keeping his team’s energy level up. He felt that the energy level kind of dwindled in last year’s district debacle, so avoiding a repeat of that was very important.
“He talked a lot about energy,” said Braden Richard, who finished with seven points for Central. “And that’s what got us through the night.”
Student support key: It was certainly a lot easier to draw energy from the crowd when the Panthers are playing on their home court. Schieler implored the CY students to show up for Tuesday’s contest. They did. Their support was both noticed.
“I was really proud of them,” Schieler said of the students. “I actually called our student section out on Twitter earlier this week saying that they better get here tonight and they did a great job.”
While Richard was not one of the double-digit scorers Tuesday, he provided his classmates with the thrill of the night when he scored on a one-handed dunk with 3:17 left in the third quarter.
Salter did his part, too. The senior drained buzzer-beating shots to end both the first and third quarters.
“When you’re shooting well, you just feel like you can hit anything,” he said. “The rim feels just huge.”
Trojans loom: Life figures to get tougher Friday when the Panthers face the Mid-Penn Conference runner-up. Chambersburg features some significant size inside with 6-foot, 8-inch Tyler Collier. CY’s biggest bodies are Richard and Gabe Guidinger, who are both listed at 6-4.
Fortunately, the Panthers have become somewhat familiar with Trojans over the past few years after playing them in summer leagues and during the preseason in scrimmages.
“They like to pound the ball inside,” Schieler said. “So they’re like 1990’s style NBA basketball the way they play. Gabe and Braden are going to be real huge. And our guards are going to be real big too with trying to get ball pressure. It’s going to have to be a whole team defensive effort.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.