Panthers lose to Eagles 66-45 in District 3 Class 6A quarterfinals. (Patrick Blain/For GameTimePA.com)
READING – Even before tipoff, Central York realized they had a tall task facing top-seeded Reading in a District 3 Class 6A quarterfinal Friday night at the Geigle Complex.
Reading’s height and quickness proved to be too much to handle for the Panthers as they struggled throughout the game and fell to the host Red Knights, 66-45.
Reading (24-2) advances to the Class 6A semifinals to play Harrisburg (17-6) at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Hershey's Giant Center.
University of Miami commit Lonnie Walker scored 10 of his team’s first 18 points, and the Red Knights’ aggressive trapping defense kept Central York (18-9) from finding its rhythm. The Panthers trailed, 33-17, at halftime.
“They are such a unique team and so difficult to prepare for because they are tall, athletic and quick,” said Central York head coach Kevin Schieler. “We had trouble handling their pressure, but I thought we did a good job at getting the ball across half court.
“We still struggled to score because of their length. They force you into shots, and I can’t think of a lot of open shots we had in the first half. Everything was contested and we had to bust our butt for it.”
Reading built a 23-point lead in the third quarter before Central York rallied midway through the stanza.
Walker left the court and headed to the locker room with an apparent ankle injury with just under three minutes remaining in the third, but he returned in the fourth and finished with a game-high 25 points. A highlight of the night included Walker's one-handed slam dunk in the third quarter, when he took off two steps inside the foul line.
The Panthers did score the last six points in the quarter with Courtney Batts (team-high 12 points) converting two layups in the run as the Panthers cut the lead to 50-34 at the beginning the fourth quarter. But Reading scored the first seven points of the final quarter to seal the win.
Evan Czulada added six points and eight rebounds for Central York.
“Our first two shots in the third quarter were in the paint and we didn’t make them,” Schieler said. “Three of our first four possessions we had good looks, but we didn’t knock those shots down. Against a team like this, you have to make those. It is tough to climb out of a hole being down 20 points against any team, yet along a team like this.”
Central York will look to punch their ticket to the state playoffs when they play Carlisle, which lost at the buzzer to Harrisburg, in a consolation game at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Milton Hershey School.
“We still have another game to play and we’re in a fight to get to states right now,” said Schieler. “We’ll give the boys off (Saturday) and we’ll get ready for our new season.”
Reading High senior Lonnie Walker opted to stay with his high school team even when people told him he needed to transfer to a powerhouse program. The Miami recruit once again has Reading thinking about a state title run in 2016-17. Jim Seip, GameTimePA.com