As the buzzer sounded to close the third quarter, the New Oxford players walked to their bench after watching their nine-point halftime lead disappear into a one-point deficit.
Colonials head coach Nate Myers reminded his team that they had experience in big games and that they could turn the momentum back around.
“Coach just told us, ‘stay calm, stay composed,’” New Oxford senior Brayden Long said. “We’ve been through this all year. That spot wasn’t new to us. We just had to play our game in the fourth quarter, and we did.”
The Colonials were able to limit the costly turnovers that York High had forced to take the lead in the third quarter and they completed the fourth-quarter comeback to advance to the York-Adams League championship game for a second consecutive season, 60-54. It was New Oxford's 13th straight victory.
“This group has been special all year,” Myers said. “It’s been a heck of a ride. We hope we can continue as long as we can.”
Thunderous dunk: While his free throw in the final seconds may have officially clinched the game for the Colonials, Abdul Janneh's only other two points in the second half crushed the Bearcats’ hopes.
The New Oxford senior received the ball after he threw an inbounds pass and went the length of the floor before he slammed in a ferocious dunk in the final minutes of the game.
“Every single time I’m going into the paint, I’m trying to dunk it every time,” Janneh said. “That one, that was crazy. I just don’t know how I did that.”
Janneh finished with a game-high 15 points, but did most of his damage in the first half. He drilled a pair of 3-pointers for the Colonials, which was the key to their offense in the opening half.
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New Oxford junior Connor Jenkins chipped in 14 points with a pair of his own 3-pointers, while Long added 10 points.
Defense keys York High in third quarter: The Bearcats' defense was suffocating in the third quarter and completely shut down the Colonials’ offense. York High held Janneh scoreless in the quarter and outscored New Oxford 16-6 to take its first lead of the second half at the buzzer.
Cameron Gallon led the Bearcats with 13 points, while Antoine Beard and Isiah Carroll added 12 points each.
Jenkins and Long combined for a 3-pointer and layup, respectively, early in the fourth quarter to give the Colonials the lead and they never looked back.
Aiming at league crown: Before the season, New Oxford set several goals, including winning the division, league title and district title. The Colonials shared the Division I title with Central York and are now one win from achieving the second item on that list.
“We won our division. Our next goal is winning the county,” Janneh said. “After that, we have another goal for districts, but right now we’re looking ahead at counties (and) keeping our head on a straight path.”
New Oxford lost in last year's league final to York High, 54-50.
This year's championship game is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at York College. The Colonials will face Central York, a 55-50 winner over York Suburban in Tuesday's other Y-A semifinal.
Reach Rob Rose at email@example.com.