The senior led the Panthers with 25 points
Jared Wagner gripped the ball with both hands and let out a euphoric scream.
The Central York guard had just picked up a pivotal steal with less than three minutes to play and the Panthers leading Spring Grove by five. Needless to say, he was pretty pumped up.
"I'm like that that every game," Wagner said with a smile. "I'm emotionally into every game, you can ask anybody. I always compete, and I love to play."
Wagner certainly came to play Friday, scoring 25 points to lead the Panthers past the Rockets, 53-50, on the road. It was the same final score as when the two teams met earlier in the season on Dec. 8.
Not only did Wagner score nearly half the team's points, he also came up with a number of huge steals and played tight defense against Spring Grove star Eli Brooks all game.
Afterwards, Central York head coach Kevin Schieler called Wagner "the most competitive player I've ever coached." Schieler also praised the senior for his defensive instincts and ability to react.
"He just anticipates so well," Schieler said. "He sees stuff from half court, and he's just an explosive athlete. It doesn't matter if he's sick, hurt. If there's something competitive, he has to win."
The game followed a similar script to the first matchup, with Spring Grove (10-2, 6-2 YAIAA Division I) starting off slow and having to claw its way back. Fortunately for the Rockets, they only trailed by nine point after the first quarter instead of 15 like last time.
Part of the Rockets' struggles were attributed to Central York's ability to limit Brooks, who scored eight points in the first half but shot just 3-of-12 from the field. The Panthers (14-2, 9-0 YAIAA Division I) also held Spring Grove star senior Darin Gordon to just two points in the first half and six overall.
The Rockets looked disorganized in general for much of the first half. While that was also true the first time the two teams played, that matchup was Spring Grove's first game of the year and Central York's third. At this point in the season, Schieler said he was "surprised that being at home (Spring Grove) didn't come out a little more fired up."
"The guys wanted it, and we just weren't organized at the beginning," Spring Grove head coach James Brooks said. "The only good thing is that it stayed a low-scoring game at the beginning and gave us a chance to get back into it."
Down by five at halftime, the Rockets came out much stronger in the second half. But with Central York also picking up steam as the game went on, Spring Grove couldn't make up any ground and went into the fourth quarter down by eight.
Although Brooks kept Spring Grove alive with 13 fourth-quarter points, Central was able to hang on for the win. The Panthers led by five with four seconds to play before Brooks hit a meaningless layup at the buzzer.
Although the Rockets missed an opportunity to make a serious push for first place in Division I, James Brooks said he's still confident and proud of where his team is right now.
"We were 2-20 three years ago, to say we threw magical dust on ourselves and we're going to be elite overnight, we're pretty satisfied with where we're going," Brooks said. "Hopefully we get a chance to play these guys again. I'm sure it'll be a good game, and it'll probably be close."
Central York (53)
Jared Wagner 10 3-4 25, Onterio Edmonds 3 6-8 13, N. Markey 2 1-2 5, O'Neill 1 0-0 2, Sobestanovich 1 0-0 2, Batts 3 0-2 6, G. Markey 0 0-0 0, Czulada 0 0-0 0. Totals — 20 10-16 53.
Spring Grove (50)
Eli Brooks 8 2-2 24, Grant Wierman 5 0-0 11, Darin Gordon 3 0-0 6, Sager 2 0-0 4, Flaherty 0 0-0 0, Drew Gordon 2 0-0 4, Panter 0 1-2, 1, Messersmith 0 0-0 0. Totals — 20 3-4 50.
Central York _ 14 _ 7 _ 18 _ 14 _ — _ 53
Spring Grove _ 5 _ 11 _ 15 _ 19 _ — _ 50
3-point goals — Central York 3 (Wagner 2, Edmonds), Spring Grove 7 (Brooks 6, Wierman) .
JV score — Central York 49, Spring Grove 43