WEDNESDAY'S DISTRICT 3 BOYS' BASKETBALL: Red Lion rolls past short-handed Manheim Twp.

ROB ROSE
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As 40th birthday parties go, Steve Schmehl was pretty happy with the location of his. 

The Red Lion High School boys' basketball head coach got the best gift he could from his players on Wednesday — a 63-47 District 3 Class 6-A playoff win vs. Manheim Township and a locker-room celebration to cap off a 12-0 home record this season.

“When I saw the district schedule come out and I saw that the first round was on the 3rd I was like, ‘hey that would be pretty cool,’” Schmehl said. “It worked out well.”

Red Lion Head Coach Steve Schmehl during District III, Class 6-A first round basketball action against Manheim Township at Red Lion, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

What Schmehl and Red Lion (17-2) didn’t expect was to play a junior varsity team in the district playoffs. The No. 8 seed Red Lion team started to hear rumors that its opponent was dealing with a COVID issue earlier this week. As it turns out, No. 9 seed Manheim Township (11-4) was forced to play without eight of its upperclassmen on Wednesday.

Schmehl and Red Lion senior Davante Dennis tried to keep the team focused despite the late change to the opposing lineup. The Lions didn't want to let the short-handed Blue Streaks gain any confidence. Manheim Township scored the first two points of the game, but Red Lion followed with a 12-0 run and led comfortably the rest of the way.

Jerseys for eight Manheim Township junior and senior players who will not be playing in the game, due to a COVID-19 issue, drape chairs prior to the District III, Class 6-A first round basketball game against Red Lion at Red Lion, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

“They got their one bucket and we realized real quick what they were really about, so we just all locked in real tight and made sure everything they got from (there) on out would be harder and harder,” Dennis said. 

Dennis led all scorers with 21 points, but the four he scored in the second quarter got the slightly-larger-than-usual crowd excited. The senior slammed in a pair of big dunks, the second directly on a Manheim Township player who made the poor decision to try and block Dennis.

“The first was just a quick jump start. The second one really got us going,” Dennis said. “We all just started locking in after that second one and we tried to get more and more throughout the game.”

In the second half, the Lions really pulled away. The lead swelled to 30 points with 5:24 left in the game and Schmehl pulled his starters. Evan Watt scored 14 points for Red Lion, while AJ Virata added 12 and ran a Red Lion offense that just proved too much for the short-handed Manheim Township team.

Red Lion's Davante Dennis, front, and AJ Virata, right, react after a dunk by Dennis during District III, Class 6-A first round basketball action against Manheim Township at Red Lion, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Without knowing exactly who would be on the court once the game started, Schmehl wanted his players focused more on executing their game and less about what the Blue Streaks were doing.

“We just focused on ourselves,” Schmehl said. “We didn’t worry about their personnel because we didn’t know what their personnel was going to be. We just put a game plan in of what we wanted to do and I thought our guys played really well.”

The win sets up a showdown with No. 1 seed Reading (20-2) at 7 p.m. Friday at Berks Catholic High School. The Red Knights got a first-round district bye. Reading won both games vs. common opponents, beating York High and Central York. Red Lion went 1-1 vs. Central and 2-0 vs. York High.

Manheim Township vs. Red Lion during District III, Class 6-A first round basketball action at Red Lion, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

After his team picked up its first playoff win in more than a decade in front of its home fans, Dennis isn’t ready for this special season to end just yet. The Lions head into the meeting with the top team in the bracket confident and desperate to keep adding games to the schedule.

“We've been at the bottom before, we’ve been a losing team, so we’re just trying to take advantage of everything we get,” Dennis said. “Now that we know it’s one and done, we’re trying to play every game like it could be our last, because it could be.”

OTHER BOYS' BASKETBALL

Warwick 62, Central York 47: At Warwick, the Panthers' season came to an end with a District 3 Class 6-A first-round loss. Freshman Greg Guidinger (15) and senior Nolan Hubbs (14) combined for 29 of Central's points. Kai Cipalla (24) and Tate Landis (21) combined for 45 points for No. 6 seed Warwick. No. 11 seed Central finished its season at 12-7. Warwick improved to 14-3.

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.