There was a lot of buzz surrounding the New Oxford girls' basketball team before the season tipped off on Dec. 9.
With nearly their entire team returning after a successful 2015-16 season, the Colonials were atop the York-Adams League preseason power rankings in one publication.
Those rankings served as bulletin board material for another league team — the Panthers of Central York.
Coming off the program's most successful season since 1999, coach Scott Wisner's team also returned the majority of last year's squad. Those Panthers were mere seconds from claiming the school's first league title since 1999, before falling at the end to eventual champion Red Lion.
The disappointment of how last season ended — a bitter loss in the league finals combined with missing the PIAA playoffs entirely — would have provided plenty of motivation for Wisner and his club. Getting relegated to the No. 2 spot in the preseason power ratings just added fuel to the Panthers' fire.
Central will try use the extra motivation to end their 18-year league title drought. The Panthers and the Colonials will square off for the crown at 7 p.m. Thursday at York College. The New Oxford girls are looking for their first-ever league hoops crown.
“It certainly didn’t hurt any,” Wisner said in reference to the preseason rankings. “We felt that we had proven a lot last year with what we had done and I do think the kids felt a little bit slighted.”
After falling in the final of the Penn Manor Tip-Off Classic to Lampeter-Strasburg in early December, Central has been nearly unbeatable ever since, compiling a 22-2 overall record. Only a fourth-quarter collapse that resulted in a 43-42 setback against Dallastown in mid-January stands between the Panthers and entering Thursday's game on an impressive 21-game winning streak.
Despite that hiccup, the Panthers are the favorites to make amends for last year's disappointment. Nearly every York-Adams coach surveyed stated their belief that Wisner's squad is the class of the league. Some even went as far as to say that the outcome Thursday may not be close. Central already owns two regular-season wins over New Oxford, by 25 and 29 points.
While Wisner hopes that will be the case, he certainly isn’t expecting it.
“It’s an interesting dilemma,” he said. “We are glad that we’ve had the success that we did against them. But that probably also gives them (New Oxford) some extra motivation. And if extra motivation was needed in a championship game, they certainly have that too.”
New Oxford coach James Kunkle will take any help he can get. In both of his team’s losses to Central this year he felt like his team didn’t come with its ‘A’ game. As the Panthers proved both times, anything less than that is a recipe for disaster.
“It would be nice to come out and get some redemption,” Kunkle said. “As long as it’s a competitive game, win or lose, we need to know that we gave it our best shot.”
New Oxford enters at 19-5.
PROJECTED STARTERS, KEY RESERVES
New Oxford (19-5, 55.5 ppg/43.3 ppg)
Kaelyn Long, 15.8 ppg
Haley Luckabaugh, 9.7 ppg
Presley Berryhill, 7.2 ppg
Breanne Sauter, 6.5 ppg
Haley Still, 6.3 ppg
Dealyn Stabler, 4.2 ppg
Lauren Slonaker, 2.1 ppg
Ashlyn Nailor, 2.4 ppg
Central York (22-2, 60.7 ppg/36.3 ppg)
Nikson Valencik, 15.1 ppg
Emma Saxton, 14.8 ppg
Teirra Preston, 11.2 ppg
Sarah Sepic, 6.2 ppg
Katie Fabbri, 3.1 ppg
Sammi Godfrey, 3.6 ppg
Allie Godfrey, 3.1 ppg
Taylor Marley, 2.6 ppg
Allison Wagner, 2.4 ppg
Lauren Borsa, 2.4 ppg
Katie Markel, 1.0 ppg
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.