Panthers lose in District 3 Class 6A semifinal vs. Cumberland Valley, 41-32. (Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com)
HERSHEY — Longtime Central York girls' basketball coach Scott Wisner didn't really have an answer for something he's never experienced before.
His Panthers feed off playing some of the toughest defense in District 3. And they almost always turn that into high-percentage shots near the basket.
They came into Monday night's Class 6A semifinal against mighty Cumberland Valley averaging about 60 points per game.
But from beginning to end, they couldn't buy a shot, no matter where on the court. Ultimately, a gritty performance wouldn't be nearly enough as the defending state champions pulled away for a 41-32 victory in Giant Center.
Central York will move on to the PIAA playoffs. That didn't soften the blow much, though, from such an uncharacteristic poor shooting performance.
"Hoping it's an aberration. I just have never seen anything like it. I don't know what our shooting percentage was, but it's never been ... " Wisner said, his voice trailing off.
Several times, the Panthers had wide-open 3-point looks, but most every one was either off-target or rimmed out. They missed countless layups and inside shots, too.
Cumberland Valley used those breaks to open a 10-2 lead behind St. Joseph's-bound guard Katie Jekot (19 points) and the inside presence of 6-foot-1 Addie Kirkpatrick.
The Panthers clawed back in the second quarter behind that defense, led by junior Teirra Preston, who kept swatting away errant passes.
Despite the awful start, Central trailed by only five at halftime.
And they pressed even harder and rallied in the third. Finally, some of those shots began to fall, and the Panthers pulled within a point. They trailed by only two at the end of the quarter.
Only to have everything go cold again down the stretch.
Maybe it was having never played before in the cavernous Giant Center, the depth perception around the basket so different than most anywhere else.
"I just think the rims were tough on us," said senior Emma Saxton, who was held to just eight points.
Of course, part of it probably was going against a more experienced, big-game tested opponent like CV.
"Maybe a little bit of nerves, having never played in this arena before," said Preston, who scored a game-high 11 points. "A lot of different things coming together."
Central's night could be summed up like this: With about 90 seconds to play, and still down by only six, Sarah Sepic lined up another wide-open 3-point try.
Her shot looked pretty, only to bounce in and out yet again.
Afterward, it seemed difficult for Wisner and his players to find specific answers for something they've never seen.
Saxton, quietly and yet confidently, talked about the only way for the Panthers to find themselves again, their season not yet finished.
"Yeah, we'll just keep shooting ..."