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Playing their third game in the first five days of the season, the Central York Panthers proved that despite replacing three starters they can still compete at a top level.

Central (3-0, 1-0 YAIAA Division I) squared off with Spring Grove — another projected postseason contender — Tuesday and came away with an impressive 53-50 victory in front of the Panther faithful.

Central picked up balanced scoring with four players in double figures, led by Nathan Markey's 17 points, and strong defense evidenced by Jared Wagner's five steals.

"The offense we play is equal opportunity," Wagner said. "Whoever is feeling it that night is going to have a good night. It's just about hitting it in rhythm."

Spring Grove closed to within 42-41 on an Eli Brooks and-one but Central answered with a Courtney Batts 3-pointer from the wing. Central held off Spring Grove with eight free throws down the stretch.

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Eli Brooks dunk vs Central York Brandon Stoneburg

"One of the things we talked about over the weekend was trying to find a third scorer," Central York head coach Kevin Schieler said of the balanced scoring. "Right now we're trying to find out who that guy is."

The first half was a tale of two quarters with Central dominating the first and Spring Grove countering with an even more dominant second.

The Panthers came out on fire. Markey drained three 3-pointers, Wagner forced three steals, and Central stormed out to a 20-5 lead after the first. Meanwhile the Rockets, who were playing their first game of the season, started 2-for-14 from the floor.

"I was really happy with our defense," Schieler said. "We have to fix a few things in transition, but I was happy with our defense overall."

But with Wagner on the bench with foul trouble, the Rockets flipped the script in the second, outscoring Central, 21-4, in the second capped by an emphatic dunk by Eli Brooks to end the half.

"It looked like our first game and their third game," Spring Grove head coach James Brooks said afterward. "Shots weren't falling. Guys are not in the form of how hard they have to play and be ready. We all collectively have to work hard. It can't be just one working hard and everyone else watching."

Central York 53, Spring Grove 50

Spring Grove (50)

Eli Brooks 6 7-10 20, Darin Gordon 7 1-2 19, Wierman 1 2-2 5, Sager 2 0-0 4, Flaherty 1 0-0 2. Totals — 17 10-14 50.

Central York (53)

Jared Wagner 4 3-4 11, Nathan Markey 5 2-2 16, Onterio Edmonds 2 6-6 11, Courtney Batts 4 1-2 11, O'Neill 1 0-0 2, Czulada 0 1-2 1, Sobestanovich 0 1-2 1 Totals — 16 14-18 53.

Spring Grove _ 5 _ 21 _ 10 _ 14 _ — _ 50

Central York _ 20 _ 4 _ 17 _ 12 _ — _ 53

3-point goals — SG 5 (Gordon 4, Wierman), CY 7 (Markey 4, Batts 2, Edmonds).

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