The Central York girls' basketball program has been building toward a special season in 2016-17. The Panthers saw some of their core players contributing two years ago, but the team has only improved since then. Jim Seip, GameTimePA.com
READING – Cardinal O’Hara just kept running down the floor.
Another new face lined up and buried a shot, another Division I recruit to worry about.
A state finalist a year ago, Cardinal O’Hara ended Central York’s magical season, earning a 55-35 victory in the second round of the girls’ basketball Class 6A state tournament at Santander Arena.
Central York (25-5) managed to keep up with the District 12 champions for much of the first half, but when Central’s Sarah Sepic drove to the basket and crumpled underneath her own basket holding her knee, Cardinal O’Hara just kept going.
Cardinal O’Hara (24-3) went on a 7-0 run to end the first half to pad its biggest lead of the half, heading to halftime with a 14-point edge.
“We had a lot of different things we wanted to try, and we tried them all tonight,” Central York coach Scott Wisner.
“They were just so skilled, so talented across the board. Everybody could penetrate, everybody could shoot.”
When Sepic went down, Cardinal O’Hara went on a 7-0 run to build a 14-point lead, its biggest of the half.
“I really felt like up until that last minute we were battling them,” Wisner said of the first half.
But the double-digit deficit was too much to overcome.
The first half illustrated the trouble facing Central: In the first quarter, Maura Hendrixson (Drexel recruit) netted 10 points for the Lions; in the second quarter, Hannah Nihill (another Drexel commit) scored eight points for the Lions.
“Every single time we had to make a great play in order to keep up with them,” said Central York senior Emma Saxton, who scored 10 points to move into second place in career scoring at the program.
“It reminded me of playing AAU, because everyone was so good and you couldn’t focus on one player,” Saxton said. “Everyone can drive and shoot. It was such a hard matchup defensively.”
Sepic returned to the floor and came out in the opening seconds of the third quarter to drain a 3-pointer, but Cardinal O’Hara seemed to have an answer for everything Central accomplished.
Nihill led all scorers with 18, Hendrixson added 14 and Molly Sheehan (a St. Joe’s recruit) added 13.
They don't build programs like that in York County; they don't build programs like that around most of the state.
The Panthers, with their best team in almost 20 years, cut the deficit to eight on two occasions in the third quarter, but could not hold off Cardinal O’Hara’s offense long enough to sustain a run. Central's season ends after it won its first YAIAA title and first state playoff game since 1999, and though the Panthers lose Saxton they return all of their other starters.
"There were so many highlights, that’s what we talked about in the locker room, this team is more than just about the basketball," Wisner said. "It’s been a truly family atmosphere."
Sepic added nine points, and Nikson Valencik scored eight points. Teirra Preston had 11 rebounds, three points and a block.
"I'm definitely going to remember all the highs, and even the lows, because I felt like when we lost that's when we came together," Saxton said. "I think I'm going to miss the team mostly, and all the friendships I've made."