Saxton leads Central York to YAIAA title
The Central York girls' basketball team brought home the program's first YAIAA title since 1999 on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. Jim Seip, GameTimePA.com
Emma Saxton wanted to make something happen.
While Central York was leading New Oxford by 10 points with 3:27 to play in Thursday's YAIAA title game, the Panthers were on a wrong end of a 13-5 run. So the Central York senior cut to the basket hard and twisted her body to put an off-balance layup off the backboard at York College.
It went in, just like nearly every shot Saxton took on Thursday did.
Saxton was simply unstoppable against the Colonials, scoring 25 points to lead Central York to a 65-50 win and the league title. The senior finished 10-of-11 from the field with three 3-pointers, only missing her first shot of the game.
"I just knew we had to break their press because it was challenging us at times," Saxton said. "When we got a point it calmed everything down. There's a special place in our hearts (for this win) because last year we thought we got it, but this year we finally get (to cut down) the net."
The win gave Central York its first league title since 1999. The Panthers reached the title game last season but lost to Red Lion by one point.
While the Panthers blew out New Oxford both times the teams met in the regular season, Thursday's game was close early on. New Oxford led by one point near the end of the first quarter, before Central ended the period on an 8-0 run.
That was just the beginning, as Central opened the second with back-to-back 3-pointers and eventually cruised into halftime with a 15-point lead. While New Oxford tried to slow down Central's offense play playing zone, the Panthers solved that scheme by shooting 53 percent in the first half and making seven 3-pointers.
"We really thought they would try (a zone) because Dover and York Catholic had some success against us with that in the first half of those (league playoff) games," Wisner said. "We worked against it in practice, and no matter what you run it's nice when your kids come out and knock down 3s."
Led by Kaelyn Long's 20 points, New Oxford rallied to make it a game in the fourth quarter. But despite switching up their defense, the Colonials couldn't solve Central's attack and never got the deficit under 10 points.
Nikson Valencik scored 19 points for Central while Teirra Preston added 12 and Sarah Sepic chipped in with nine. Still, the Panthers' supporting cast credited Saxton with being the catalyst all game.
"Having her as a teammates as motivated me and made me a better player," Sepic said. "She's an amazing player and I'm going to miss her so much next year."
Added Wisner: "She's been a rock all year, I've told everybody she's the player of the year and if she doesn't get it people are stupid. She can do everything and she showed it tonight."
There were few tears from New Oxford, which now enters the District 3 Class 5A tournament as the No. 3 seed. The Colonials made their first ever league title game appearance Thursday and played Central York closer than they had previously.
"That's a great team, we're not going to see a team like that in districts, I believe," New Oxford coach James Kunkle said. "Two years I've had this team, first team in New Oxford history to get here, I couldn't be prouder. They gave it their best."
The two best teams in the YAIAA will meet in the league tournament title game Thursday. Central York advanced with a win against York Catholic, while New Oxford earned its shot at the championship with a win against Delone Catholic. Jim Seip, GameTimePA.com