Central York Hangs On, Withstands Hard-Charging McCaskey As Panthers Pick Up Key Nonconference Triumph

Written by: on Thursday, February 4th, 2021


Let’s face it. There’s just something special about seeing two iconic franchises square off against one another. In terms of District 3 basketball most specifically, you’d be hard-pressed to find two programs that have been better flagbearers for their respective leagues –and their own counties for that matter– than Central York and McCaskey respectively over the last handful of seasons. Granted, while this year has indeed been puzzling—in more ways than just a few of course—seeing the Panthers and Red Tornado fighting an uphill climb in terms of the District 3-6A playoff race coming into the night was a rarity in and of itself. That said, don’t let the power rankings fool you. In fact, if Wednesday night inside Shultz Transportation Gymnasium were to serve as any sort of indication, rest assured that the upcoming District 3 tournament would be well-served to have either one, or perhaps both squadrons make it into the field.

To say that Central and McCaskey played at a break-neck pace all game long wouldn’t be remotely close to doing it any sort of justice. In fact, it almost seemed as if the spring sports season had made an early appearance given the impromptu tennis match which had broken out between the Panthers and Tornado. To be sure, neither team was truly able to run away and hide from the other in the initial few minutes considering the volleys lobbed back and forth between the two sides. Case in point, a smooth pullup jumper sunk by McCaskey 5’8 junior guard, Hassan Williams, bringing the hosts within a point at 9-8 at the five-minute mark of the opening stanza, only to bear witness to a Central York triple, this one splashed in by 6’2 sophomore, Ethan Dotson, on the Panthers’ ensuing offensive trip to keep the game’s back and forth theme ongoing. However, over the course of the next two minutes and change, Central York proceeded to go off on a blistering rally, 13-0 to be exact, as a pair of back-to-back 3-balls dialed up by way of Dotson and fellow Panther, 5’11 senior, Steven Betancur, capped off the Central salvo, making it a 22-8 Panthers’ lead with just under half of the opening quarter still left to go.

Fortunately, as far as McCaskey was concerned, the Red Tornado were able to battle back marvelously from there on out to close the opening frame.

Suffice to say, someone needed to answer the dinner bell for the homestanding Tornado should they be able to get right back into the thick of things after spotting Central York such a big lead early on. Well, as if to be right on cue, Sam Hershey then came running to the table.

It all started off rather innocently for Hershey considering that his bucket inside following the aforementioned Betancur triple gave the hosts their first points in over two minutes of game action which had finally ended their existing drought, making it a 22-10 Central York lead before McCaskey’s 6’3 senior forward was able to close the opening eight minutes by tallying four more points before the end of the stanza, helping McCaskey close the gap back down to 24-14 once the first quarter horn ultimately did sound.

At the onset of the second period, Central York couldn’t have started off much hotter.

Truth be told, the Panthers couldn’t have gotten off to a better start had they scripted it considering the orange-clad guests were able to begin the proceedings by ringing up a trifecta, this one courtesy of Dotson, putting Central York back up by a baker’s dozen just seconds into the new quarter. From there, Central York only kept the pedal down as a strong take to the rack from 5’9 junior point guard, Jacobi Baker, made it a 33-15 Panthers’ lead before their cushion eventually swelled up to as many 21 points following two consecutive 3-balls knocked down by Dotson and Baker respectively, making it a 39-18 Panthers’ lead.

At this point it was rather apparent that McCaskey needed to stop the bleeding to try and reel Central York back in as the first half wound down to a close. Good news for them, that’s exactly what took place.

In fact, it almost seemed to happen within the blink of an eye. Over the course of the next few minutes, the Red Tornado were able to whittle the Panthers’ lead back down to a dozen at 43-31 following a timely triple cashed in by Hassan Williams with under one-minute left, before McCaskey was able to head into the halftime intermission with seemingly all the momentum despite their existing ten-point deficit at 43-33.

Speaking of momentum, that’s exactly what McCaskey was able to keep possession of once the third quarter got underway.

Picking up right where he had left off coming on the heels of his impressive first half performance, Sam Hershey was able to get McCaskey back within single digits at 45-37 with six minutes and change left to go in the third following a nice bucket inside amongst the Central York tall trees.

However, even despite McCaskey being able to claw themselves back into the thick of things by that point, Central York was able to retaliate right back by proceeding to go on a timely 13-2 blitzkrieg over the course of the next three minutes, before five consecutive Red Tornado points tallied by 5’8 junior guard, Grady Bachman, got McCaskey back within two touchdowns at 58-44 with 2:18 left to play in the third. And just as they had all game long up until that point, the Red Tornado kept battling back and battling back as McCaskey was able to head into the final eight minutes down by a very modest ten all things considered, 63-53.

The start of the final period on Wednesday night brought with it good news and bad news as far as Central York was concerned. The good news? The simple fact that their leads had always ballooned up so large at various points throughout the first three quarters that McCaskey had to exert a massive effort in order to get back within shouting distance. The bad news? McCaskey had been able to do precisely that all game long at nearly every turn. The even worse news? The Red Tornado was getting ready to kick the door down in the opening minutes of the final stanza once again.

If you’re looking for a spark in the game of a basketball, a dunk is typically a good place to at least consider starting. Well, the Red Tornado certainly followed that suggestion to a T considering that McCaskey was able start the fourth quarter off with a bang –both literally and figuratively—as a two-handed stuff thrown down by 6’6 senior forward, Jayon Burnside, sliced the Panthers’ lead down to just four at 63-59 with just inside of a minute having ticked off the fourth quarter clock. From there, McCaskey continued to keep on coming as an old-fashioned, man-sized three-point play courtesy of Sam Hershey then put the Red Tornado right on the precipice of overtaking the lead at 63-62 with 5:15 now left to play.

Yet just as they had all night, Central York kept continuing to push McCaskey away at nearly every key juncture with the lead hanging in the balance.

For proof of that, look no further than the timely triple dialed up by 6’5 freshman, Greg Guidinger, on the Panthers’ ensuing offensive trip down the floor, pushing the Central cushion back up to four at 66-62. Then, over the next few minutes, Central York was able to expand their lead out even further at 70-65, following a tough-as-nails second-chance put-back from 6’0 senior forward, Kai’ryn Brown. On the night, while the Panthers were certainly well-rounded in terms of the team’s collective scoring effort throughout the entirety of the contest, no one was able to shine as bright at Kai’ryn Brown over the course of 32 minutes as Brown went on to capture game-high scoring honors, pacing the Central York effort by pocketing a team-high 21 points.

By now, if you’re anticipating that McCaskey had one last run in them heading down the final furlong given the way in which they had been able to battle back consistently while taking a slew of Central York haymakers all game long up until that point, may I suggest playing the lottery later tonight?

Time after time on Wednesday night, McCaskey was able to mount up and rally back while facing a sizeable deficit at the hands of their counterparts from York County. Sure enough, with the game starting to wind down, here the Red Tornado came roaring back once again. Sparked by a key triple dialed up by Hassan Williams, good for three more en route to his dizzying game-high 28-point performance on the evening, the Central York lead had been cut back down to three before a Williams take to the tin on Red Tornado’s next offensive trip then suddenly put McCaskey within a point at 75-74 inside of two minutes left to play.

Ironically, for a game that had wild momentum swings back and forth between either side, you wouldn’t have necessarily thought that a freshman would figure to be the key cog for a team trying desperately to protect their once gargantuan lead heading down the stretch while playing on the road in a still hostile environment despite the lack of attendees. Fair enough, but don’t bother telling that to Central York’s Greg Guidinger. If the Panthers needed an enormous bucket at various points throughout the second half during McCaskey’s persistent, valiant charge, the lanky 6’5 freshman was usually the one authoring the big shots. Case in point, Guidinger’s monstrous triple on Central’s ensuing offensive trip following Williams’ 5-0 salvo, upping the Panthers’ lead to 78-74.

But just when Central York likely felt as if they were finally out of the woods, here came McCaskey with one final rebuttal.

While it may not exactly have been according to script, the Red Tornado certainly weren’t going to pass up the opportunity at tying the game up once the Panthers committed the cardinal sin of fouling a jump shooter in the act, sending Hassan Williams to the charity stripe with the chance to knot things up shortly thereafter with Central York holding serve at that time, 79-76. Unfortunately, it ended up being a 1-3 trip for the Tornado, allowing Central York to breathe a sigh of relief with their lead still standing, 79-77, with just 17.8 seconds left.

From there, Central’s Jacobi Baker was able to tack on one more at the foul line after being the Panther McCaskey had fouled to try and extend the game with, giving the Red Tornado one final chance at completing their improbable comeback with just 16.5 seconds remaining.

Unfortunately, that would end up being all the closer McCaskey would get as the Red Tornado’s final shot from beyond the arc at the buzzer cruelly rattled in and out as the horn buzzed throughout the air, allowing Central York to finally exhale after having withstood a remarkable comeback effort put forth by McCaskey that ended just short of completion, 80-77.


NEXT UP: Suffice to say given all the wild ebbs and flows that had taken place over the course of 32 minutes on Wednesday night, it will be interesting to see how McCaskey is able to pick up the pieces in the days and games that follow their excruciating loss at the hands of Central York. In short, it’s certainly no rest for the weary come Friday night when the Red Tornado get right back up off the mat and play host to Cedar Crest in a game that will likely have gigantic ramifications on the L-L Section One title chase in the latest edition of that already testy rivalry. From there, regardless of what transpires on Friday night, it’s right back to work just a few hours later the very next afternoon when McCaskey plays host to another rival, the Reading Red Knights, in the latest chapter of that legendary series as well, putting a punctuation mark on McCaskey’s week of playing a Who’s Who within the District 3-6A landscape.

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