The Central York girls' basketball team has chopped down one Mid-Penn giant.
Now the there's just one Harrisburg-area behemoth remaining to be slain.
If the Panthers can take down Central Dauphin on Saturday morning, they will certainly be deserving District 3 Class 6-A champions.
That's because Central York will have taken the hard road to the title — a very hard road.
Cumberland Valley and Central Dauphin have firmly established themselves as the undisputed queens of big-school girls' basketball in District 3. Either the Eagles or the Rams have won the district's largest classification during each of the past five years.
Those same two programs entered this year's 6-A girls' tournament seeded No. 1 (Central Dauphin) and No. 2 (Cumberland Valley).
Monday night, in the most dramatic of fashion, third-seeded Central York took down Cumberland Valley on the Eagles' home court, 37-36, in overtime.
Next, the Panthers get a shot at Central Dauphin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Hershey's Giant Center in the championship game.
With a win, the Panthers will claim their first District 3 girls' basketball crown in more than two decades.
Of course, beating Central Dauphin will be no easy task. The Mid-Penn Conference Commonwealth champions will come in at 25-1 and ranked No. 1 in the state in 6-A in the latest Trib/HSSN state poll. They will be looking for their third district title in the past four years.
The Rams will also come into that contest secure in the knowledge that that they already own one win over Central York this season, 44-32 at Central Dauphin on Dec. 11. It should be noted however, that Central York actually did lead that contest 31-26 after three quarters, only to get outscored 18-1 in the final period.
Two years ago, Central York also fell to Central Dauphin in the District 3 6-A title game, 37-26.
"Obviously, Central Dauphin again presents a formidable task," veteran Central York head coach Scott Wisner said. "... We know their personnel. They are extremely well-coached and they play very aggressive defense. ... Clearly, this is going to be a defensive battle and we’ll need to execute offensively to have a chance to knock them off, but I have great confidence in my team and know we will compete hard and give 100% when we hit the Giant Center court on Saturday morning."
Wisner knows his team can play with Central Dauphin. They did it for three quarters back in December. This time they just need to finish the job. He also knows what it's like to win a district crown, having guided the Panthers to the 4-A crown in 1999. That is Central York's only district title in girls' basketball.
Beating Cumberland Valley: The Panthers should also get a boost of confidence from beating a Cumberland Valley team — on the road — that handed Central Dauphin its only loss this season.
In Monday's win at Cumberland Valley (18-4), the Panthers were trailing 36-35, in the OT when Wisner called a timeout with nine seconds left. Senior Abby McFerren then drove the lane and made a runner with 1.9 seconds remaining to give Central the victory over the defending district champs.
"Both teams played excellent defensive games, making quality shots tough to find throughout," Wisner said. "I am extremely proud of my team’s effort, resilience and performance. ... It was very much a back-and-forth affair, and every time we found ourselves with a deficit, we continued to get stops on the defensive end and eventually even the score or regain the lead."
Sarah Berman paced the Panthers with 12 points, while freshman Bella Chimienti added 11.
The Panthers trailed 9-5 after the first quarter, 16-14 at the half and 25-22 after three quarters, but they persevered, using a 9-6 fourth-quarter edge to force OT at 31-31, and then outscored Cumberland Valley 6-5 in the extra session.
Wisner said Monday's win was one of the most memorable during his tenure.
"I’ve been fortunate enough to have teams that have won a district championship and multiple league championships, but this victory does stand out as one of the more impressive wins I’ve been lucky to be a part of because of the stakes and the challenge of the atmosphere, playing on a terrific team’s home floor, as well."
Central York improved to 21-4 and has won 17 of its last 18 games after a 4-3 start. The Panthers have already assured themselves of a state berth.
"The progression of this team throughout the season has been nothing short of amazing," Wisner said. "Continuing to improve, jell together and find ways to win games have been trademarks of this team. Different players have stepped up offensively at different times, but the team’s dedication to defense has allowed us to be competitive in every game this season. That was proven again tonight."
Now Wisner and his girls are hoping to prove something else on Saturday. They want to prove they're the best 6-A girls' basketball team in District 3 and end the Mid-Penn stranglehold on the crown.
Central Dauphin 49, Red Lion 40: At Central Dauphin, the Lions' saw their District 3 6-A title hopes ended. Makiah Shaw scored 16 points in a losing cause. Fifth-seeded Red Lion dropped to 21-6. The Lions will play in the third-place game at 7 p.m. Thursday at Cumberland Valley. Both teams will advance to the state playoffs.
Gov. Mifflin 41, Dallastown 37 (OT): At Shillington, the Wildcats dropped the District 3 Class 6-A consolation contest. Bria Beverly (15 points) and Claire Teyral (12 points) led the Wildcats. Ninth-seeded Dallastown fell to 19-9. Fourth-seeded Gov. Mifflin improved to 21-6. Dallastown will play in the district seventh-place game at 7 p.m. Thursday at seventh-seeded Hempfield (18-8). The winner will earn a state berth. Hempfield lost to sixth-seeded Manheim Twp. on Monday, 38-29.
Reach Steve Heiser at email@example.com.