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HERSHEY — A return to normalcy was definitely welcomed by the Central York girls'
basketball team.

After missing three days of school because of a threat of violence made on social media, the Panthers were finally able to attend school as normal on Monday, Feb. 26.

Then, just as they did a year ago, the Panthers took the trek up I-83 to Hershey
for a District 3 Class 6-A semifinal showdown. This time, the Elizabethtown Bears were waiting.

While last year's venture to Hershey was anything but memorable for the Panthers, the second time around turned out to be much sweeter.

Led by the senior trio of Nikson Valencik (14 points), Teirra Preston (13 points) and
Sarah Sepic (12 points), the Panthers took the early lead and never trailed en route to a
48-37 victory at the Giant Center.

The third-seeded Panthers (22-4) advance to the 6-A final at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28, against fourth-seeded Central Dauphin (16-5), which downed eighth-seeded Wilson (16-9) on Monday, 45-41, in overtime.

"I was so glad we were back in school today," Central York coach Scott Wisner said. "Just having the kids being up and in a normal routine. I didn't want us to be coming here after sitting at home all day again and not being in the routine, so it was definitely
helpful."

Having the experience, as poor as it was a season ago, was also a benefit.

"It's just nice to be able to get back to this point," Wisner said. "The kids have been
so resilient, just wanting to get back here. I think it was a bit of a case of once you're
here and experience it that you want to come back. And I just felt the kids were more
comfortable."

And determined too.

"We really wanted to win this game," said Preston, who collected nine rebounds in the
victory.

Giant Center experience helped: Reaching the title game was a goal of the team since last year's run ended in the semifinals against Cumberland Valley. The Panthers played with the same poise and intensity they've displayed all season.

The nervous jitters, which likely impacted their play a year ago, were nowhere to be
found Monday.

"Last year we were awful shooting here," said Allison Wagner, who scored eight points.
"That let us have a feel for things and this year we were like, 'we were here ... we got
it ... we know what to do.'"

Preston, who was a force in the paint all game long, agreed.

"Being here last year helped us a lot," she said. "It was just a great experience to be here again this year."

Good start: The good feelings were certainly not hurt by some early shot making by Sepic, who started off the scoring by knocking down a 3-pointer. After Amber Orban got the Bears on the board a moment later, Preston scored on back-to-back possessions to put the Panthers ahead 7-2.

E-town, making its first district trip since 2012, didn't play like a team that was frightened under the bright lights of the moment in Hershey. The second-seeded Bears (19-7) fought back all night, but never were able to draw even.

The Lancaster-Lebanon squad got to within 17-15 early in the second quarter. Then, after Central built its biggest lead of the night at 41-29 early in the final stanza, the Bears used a 6-0 run to cut the deficit in half.

Defense key for Central: The Panthers were held scoreless for more than five minutes after Preston pushed the lead to 12 with a lay-up. But the Central defense, as it has for nearly the entire season, kept E-town from getting back into it by making a series of big stops.

That forced the Bears to foul late to try to claw back into it, but Wisner's squad made
just enough (5 of 9) from the foul line to salt away the victory.

"It was definitely very tense," Wagner said of the final minutes.

"But I knew we could push through it," Preston added, with a bit of a smile.

OTHER DISTRICT 3

GIRLS' BASKETBALL

Dallastown 52, Manheim Twp. 35: At Cumberland Valley, the Wildcats assured themselves of a PIAA state berth with a District 3 Class 6-A consolation triumph.

Julia Sutton paced Dallastown with 17 points, while Aniya Matthews added 15 and Samantha Miller collected 12.

The fifth-seeded Wildcats improved to 19-8, while top-seeded Manheim Township falls to 18-7. 

Dallastown will now play in the fifth-place game at 6 p.m. Thursday at Hempfield against sixth-seeded Cedar Cliff (18-7). The Colts beat 10th-seeded Penn Manor (15-10) on Monday, 35-29.

The top seven District 3 6-A girls' teams get state playoff bids.

Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdispatch.com.

 

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