Red Lion takes lead in race for York-Adams D-I boys' title with 58-42 win vs. Central York

ROB ROSE
717-505-5418/@robrosesports

It didn’t take Davante Dennis long to recall how many times he had celebrated a victory against Central York during his career.

Although that lone win came 1,124 days prior, the memories of that game, and the subsequent defeats that his Red Lion team suffered vs. the powerhouse Panthers program, were still fresh in his mind.

That made the joy he felt as he listened to the final buzzer sound on Tuesday night exquisite. He got to celebrate a 58-42 win, which pulled the Lions ahead of Central York in the York-Adams League Division I standings.

Red Lion is now 12-1 overall and 8-1 in D-I, while Central fell to 10-3 and 8-2. The loss ended Central's six-game win streak.

“Since I’ve been in high school, I’ve only beat Central one time, my freshman year,” Dennis said. “We usually lose to them, (either) we get smoked by them or it’s a close game. Not only did we beat them, we’re No. 1 now. It just feels really great right now that we won.”

Red Lion's Davante Dennis takes the ball to the basket during boys' basketball action against Central York at Central York High School in Springettsbury Township, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. Central York would win the game 78-75. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The victory came in the second-and-final regular-season meeting between the teams this season. Central York won the first contest, 78-75, and in the rematch, Red Lion coach Steve Schmehl wanted the game played at a much different pace.

Central York wants to get up and down the court fast and averages 76 points per game. Red Lion tried to play the Panthers' game in the first battle and lost. Tuesday, the Lions limited the Panthers’ fastbreak chances and used their size to deter inside scoring chances. In the process, the Lions landed almost right at their average of 59 points per game and won. Red Lion has now won six straight since that Central loss.

“Tonight’s game was exactly where we wanted it to be,” Schmehl said. “We wanted to kind of grind (it) out and make them work for everything they get. Don’t give them anything easy, and as the second half wore down, I think that’s exactly the type of game it was. It turned into a tough, physical game, and I think that’s to our advantage.”

Central York held a 31-24 lead at halftime but managed only 11 points after the break. Red Lion dominated the fourth quarter and outscored the Panthers 17-2 to close out the victory.

The Panthers scored their first point of the final quarter with under a minute left on a layup by Jacobi Baker. The junior guard went into halftime as the game’s leading scorer with 14 points on four 3-pointers, but the two points he scored in the final seconds were his only points in the second half for a 16-point performance.

Red Lion serves a loss to visiting Central York Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. Red Lion won the game 58-42. Bill Kalina photo

Dennis, who had nine of his 11 points in the final two quarters,  was just one of four Lions in double figures. Evan Watt led all scorers with 18 points on four 3-pointers, while Masen Urey had 11 and AJ Virata added 10.

Watt and Tugg Wellsandt delivered clutch 3-point shooting, and Watt’s 11 first-half points kept the Lions close until Dennis, Virata and Wellsandt got going.

Nolan Hubbs was the only other Panthers’ player to reach double figures with 11 points, and Central York head coach Jeff Hoke said his players will have to learn from the loss about how to win when they aren’t hitting the shots they’re used to.

Red Lion serves a loss to visiting Central York Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. Red Lion won the game 58-42. Bill Kalina photo

“We’re going to look at the film tomorrow, work hard and move on,” Hoke said. “There are going to be nights like that, so we have to adjust when the lid is on the basket. When the defense is playing like that, what can we do differently to get a couple easy baskets when (their shots aren’t) falling?”

The victory put Red Lion at No. 8 in the District 3 Class 6-A power ratings, one spot behind Central York. The top 12 teams in the final district power ratings will make the 6-A field.

After the final seconds ticked off the clock, Schmehl was excited to celebrate the moment with his players. The members of this team had never been part of a winning season and now are a few games away from claiming a division title, if they can avoid a loss.

Red Lion serves a loss to visiting Central York Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. Red Lion won the game 58-42. Bill Kalina photo

Schmehl and his players know they can’t celebrate too much just yet, but Tuesday’s win is one that has been years in the making, and the Lions' coach wasn’t afraid to let his team enjoy it a little.

“It’s unbelievable,” Schmehl said. “This group has been through a lot. It’s a great group of kids that haven’t experienced a big win like this in their career. They just haven’t. So, to grind out a win playing our style on our home floor in a big game like this (and have) the experience in the locker room with the guys afterward, that’s special stuff. That’s why you do this. I told them to enjoy it tonight and be ready to practice tomorrow.”

— Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.