DALLASTOWN — Standing outside his team's locker room on Wednesday night, Central York girls' basketball coach Scott Wisner summed up perfectly what he just witnessed.
"I told the kids my summary of the game tonight is, 'it wasn't pretty, but it was gritty," Wisner said.
Points were at a premium. Both Central and its opponent, Susquehannock, played tenacious, physical defense. The Panthers eclipsed double figures in two of the four quarters, while Susquehannock scored more than 10 or more points in just one quarter.
Central trailed at halftime and after three quarters, but it dominated the final eight minutes, outscoring the Warriors, 11-4.
The final surge allowed the Panthers to punch their ticket to the York-Adams League championship game with a 33-29 victory.
Defending champion Central (19-4) will take on Dallastown (18-6) at 7 p.m. Friday in York College's Wolf Gymnasium. The two teams shared the Division I championship and split their regular-season meetings.
"This will be my third year in a row going to York College, and I'm just excited for the experience," Central's Nikson Valencik said. "Back-to-back county championships, that's the main goal."
Valencik played a key role in ensuring that her team will get to play on the college floor one more time. She led all scorers with 14 points, with nine of her points coming in the third quarter.
The 5-foot, 9-inch senior knocked down a 3-point shot from the right wing to go with a layup and a turnaround shot and two foul shots.
"I just thought I had to be a leader for my team," Valencik said. "I wanted to show my team we can't give up, and we can make it to York College again."
Wisner felt that Valencik was more aggressive than anyone else.
"We weren't creating opportunities early, and everyone got tentative," he said. "Fortunately, Nikson picked that up for us."
Valencik's senior teammate, Teirra Preston, supplied eight points, and the 5-11 senior was a force inside with her defense and rebounding.
Despite Valencik's outburst in the third quarter, her team still trailed by three points entering the fourth quarter. She cut the deficit to one on a fast-break layup to start the final quarter, and a little more than a minute later, Sarah Sepic gave Central the lead for good when she banked in a 3-point shot from the right wing.
Susquehannock pulled within one point, but the Warriors weren't able to seize the lead or forge a tie the rest of the way.
Jaden Walker scored 11 points for Susquehannock, which connected on just one shot from the field in the final quarter.
"We knew going in that we had to contain (Jayla) Galbreath on the perimeter and Walker in the post," Wisner said. "They're both great players. We knew we had to stick to our defensive principles, and I thought we did a fantastic job for the majority of the night."
Dallastown beat Delone Catholic in Wednesday's second semifinal at Dallastown, 52-42.
Division II champion Susquehannock fell to 20-4.
Reach Dick VanO'Linda at email@example.com.