EMIGSVILLE — It seems like there are few things that can slow down the Central York girls’ basketball team right now.
Winners of the York-Adams Division I and playoff titles, the Panthers have been on a tear of late.
That is until Mother Nature turned up the heat outside in late February.
Playing on an evening more representative of May than February, the Panthers had a tough time getting their offense in gear. Averaging just more than 60 points a game this season, Central wasn’t able to get anywhere near that in Thursday’s District 3 Class 6-A quarterfinal with Cedar Cliff.
Even with the offense stuck in neutral most of the night, and York-Adams Player of the Year candidate Emma Saxton in a shooting funk, the Panthers did what any champion would — just win.
It wasn’t pretty but No. 4 Central York (24-2) punched its ticket to the Giant Center after getting past the No. 5 Colts (18-6), 43-35.
That triumph sets up a showdown with No. 1 seeded Cumberland Valley (19-5) in Hershey at 5 p.m. Monday. The Eagles had similar issues with C.D. East before downing their Mid-Penn Conference rival 41-38 in double-overtime.
“The first quarter was just so ragged offensively,” Central coach Scott Wisner said. “I thought we had opportunities, but part of it was this heat. My gosh we were playing on a 75-degree night and I thought we were really struggling there a bit in the first quarter.”
Central led 11-7 after eight minutes, a stark contrast from its first showdown against Cedar Cliff back in late December. Back then, the Panthers throttled the Colts, 66-37.
“Cedar Cliff fought really hard,” Wisner said. “But I’m just really proud of (my team) gutting it out.”
Saxton, who averaged 21.5 points a game over the past seven contests, had an off night. The Bloomsburg recruit scored five of her nine points in the first period, but didn’t score again until the final stanza.
“Trying to keep her out of the paint was one of our goals,” Cedar Cliff coach Scott Weyant said. “She’s just a great player both inside and out, so you have to kind of pick your poison with her. So we doubled her, but she found a lot of girls inside, and when we had to help we gave up some second shots.”
Fortunately, the Panthers got a much-needed boost from guard Katie Fabbri. The sophomore, who was only averaging 3.1 points a game, tallied 12 points in the victory.
The Central defense, which entered the night allowing just 36.9 points a game, was a constant all night. Only one Cedar Cliff player (Jimiah McDonald, 10) reached double digits in scoring.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game, but I’ll take the effort,” Wisner said. “I thought defensively that we really played hard.”
Junior Nikson Valencik also scored 12 points to lead the Panthers before she fouled out in the fourth period.
While Thursday’s victory secured a trip to Hershey and the district semifinals, it also clinched the Panthers a PIAA berth. That's big, because Wisner’s club was the only team a season ago to make it to the district quarterfinals, yet fail to claim one of the seventh state entries.
“The kids were looking to get at least this far and get a chance to play at the Giant Center,” he said. “And qualify for states, and we accomplished both of those tonight.”
Central Dauphin 47, Dallastown 28: Dallastown was no match for third-seeded Central Dauphin (20-3) in a District 3 6-A quarterfinal. The 11th-seeded Wildcats fell to 13-12. Lily Jamison had eight points to lead the Wildcats. Dallastown will face seventh-seeded McCaskey (18-9) in a consolation game at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Warwick.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.