Last year's near miss motivated Panthers to crown
- Central York suffered a close loss in the York-Adams League title game a season ago to Red Lion.
- That setback motivated the Panthers to win this year's championship.
- Central won this year's league crown with a 65-50 win over New Oxford on Thursday.
Central York's Teirra Preston was wearing a smile as she exited her team's locker room following the Panthers' 65-50 victory over New Oxford in the York-Adams League girls' basketball championship game.
It was a sharp contrast to the way the Central junior, who will turn 17 on Friday, was feeling last year after the 2016 title game.
"I was crying, it was sad." she said. "But, it (last year's one-point loss in the title game to Red Lion) is something that pushed us to win this year."
The Panthers, who started slowly in this year's tournament quarterfinal and semifinal games, came out on fire in the final.
They connected on 8 of 12 shots from the field, including four 3-point shots (two by Nikson Valencik and two by Sarah Sepic), to open a 20-13 lead after one quarter.
Central increased its advantage to 15 points at halftime and was up by 19 late in the third quarter.
New Oxford rallied in the fourth quarter and cut the deficit to 10 (56-46 with 3:27 to play), but the Colonials couldn't draw any closer.
Following the final horn, the players received their medals, and then Central's players and coaches took turns climbing a ladder to clip a piece of the net.
Head coach Scott Wisner made the final cut and held up the net, which drew cheers from Central's players and fans.
"There's a special place in our heart," said Central's Emma Saxton, who led all scorers with 25 points. "Last year, we thought we would get it (the championship), but this year, we finally got the net."
Saxton delivered an amazing performance in the big game. After missing her first shot, she connected on 10 in a row.
"Defense is always on my mind," the Panthers' senior said. "Sometimes, I just put it (the ball) up there, and it went in. I was surprised I was doing so well."
Saxton was on hand at York College three years ago when her brother, Sam, and his Central teammates, won the York-Adams boys' title.
"It's special to share something with your brother," she said.
Saxton, Preston (12 points) and Valencik (17 points) each finished in double figures for the winners.
"It felt pretty great (her 17-point night)," Valencik said. "But all my teammates are big contributors to that. We all help each other score and play defense."
Valencik agreed with her teammates that last year's loss was a huge motivator going into this season.
"We wanted it so badly this year," she said. "Last year, I was more nervous (playing in the final), but this year, I was more used to it. I love the crowd, and I love the intensity."
Reach Dick VanO'Linda at email@example.com.