At halfcourt, Jared Wagner looked toward the ceiling and let out a yell. On the bench, Central York head coach Kevin Schieler pumped his fist. The Panthers had just broken William Penn's press as they had routinely throughout the second half and finished the play with a Courtney Batts and-1.
It might not have been a highlight-reel worthy play, but it was the dagger that essentially sealed the win. Batts' play gave Central a four-point lead and the Panthers pulled away, 61-50, completing a regular-season sweep of the Bearcats and clinching a division title at the same time.
"That's the story of our season," William Penn head coach Troy Sowers said. "Seven of our eight losses have been one possession games in the final minutes. It's like torture and agony. We're not making big plays at big parts of the game. ... They made plays to win like they have been, and we didn't."
Maybe it was the lingering effect of snow postponements or maybe it was the electric atmosphere at William Penn, but the Panthers didn't look like the No. 1 ranked Class AAAA team in the district at the start of the game. The Bearcats jumped out to a 12-0 lead capped off by back-to-back 3-pointers from Trey Shifflett and Montrel Morgan.
"It's not typical of us," Schieler said of the slow start. "It could be the atmosphere in here. It was physical basketball, and I just think we weren't awake. ... But we were able to make them play halfcourt offense in the second half, and we were really proud of our halfcourt defense."
Central still trailed by double digits midway through the second when Evan Czulada caught fire and things started to turn around. The forward scored seven points in the quarter, then Wagner swiped two steals and converted them into layups at the other end.
"For so many of our role players, it's just watching that first one go in," Schieler said of Czulada, who finished with 13 points. "Then they gain that confidence. That's what it was for Evan tonight."
After Shifflett was honored by the crowd for scoring his 1,000th career point in the third quarter, the teams traded the lead back and forth several times. At one point, Wagner and Morgan showed the crowd why they're two of the best guards in the league. Wagner drained a 3-pointer to tie the game at 36, then Morgan came down and answered with a step-back 3-pointer only a few seconds later. Not to be outdone, Wagner pulled up and hit a 3 from four feet behind the arc on the next possession.
But the Bearcats made just three more shots the rest of the way and shot 2-for-14 in the fourth.
"It's almost looks like our guys are nervous," Sowers said. "But we have guys who have played in big-time games, so I don't know why we're nervous. We haven't made a big play all season, and Central has."
Central York (61)
Jared Wagner 4 7-7 17, Evan Czulada 5 3-4 13, Onterio Edmonds 4 0-0 10, Courtney Batts 5 1-2 11, Sobestanovich 3 0-0 6, Ray 1 0-0 2, Markey 1 0-0 2, O'Neill 0 0-0 0. Totals — 23 11-13 61.
William Penn (50)
Trey Shifflett 5 1-2 13, Kristopher Johnson 7 5-8 19, Montrel Morgan 5 4-5 16, Wilson 1 0-0 2, Casiano 0 0-0 0, Drayden 0 0-0 0, Iturmendi 0 0-0 0. Totals — 18 10-15 50.
Central York _ 10 _ 17 _ 18 _ 16 _ — _ 61
William Penn_ 17 _ 14 _ 12 _ 7 _ — _ 50
3-point goals — CY 4 (Edmonds 2, Wagner 2), WP 4 (Morgan 2, Shifflett 2).