"Here we go again."
That was the mindset of Central York senior Jared Wagner Tuesday night as he looked to the scoreboard and saw the game tied with less than 30 seconds left. His Panthers had just blown a fourth-quarter lead for the second time in three days. But unlike in their six-point loss to Carlisle Saturday night, it was the Panthers who came out on top this time, 77-69, over William Penn in overtime.
After the Bearcats had clawed back from 15 points down, William Penn forward Kristopher Johnson had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, but his pull-up jumper from the top of the key rimmed out. Wagner, who scored 19 of his game-high 21 points in the second half and overtime, sank six free throws in the extra period while the Bearcats shot 1-for-7 from the floor.
"It's tough to use all that energy and not make it happen," Bearcats coach Troy Sowers said of the comeback attempt. "We needed to make that shot. We had a lot of things go our way to come back and tie it up and you just can't expect that to keep up."
With Wagner struggling in the first half, the Panthers leaned on a pair of role players in junior Courtney Batts and sophomore Landyn Ray. Batts scored 10 in the first quarter, Ray drained three first-half 3-pointers and the Panthers took a 36-32 lead into halftime in front of a packed Central gym.
"That was so big for us," Wagner said of Batts' and Ray's play in the first half. "Courtney had 10 in the first and they both just played great for us."
Wagner, who also finished with five steals and a block, went on a personal 9-2 run early in the third that included an and-one after he stole an inbounds pass in the backcourt.
"In big games it's about making big plays and it was Jared Wagner out there making all the big plays," Sowers said. "He willed his team to a win. It looked like he wanted to win more than any player on the floor."
Central took its biggest lead of the game, 54-39, midway through the third, but that's when things started to turn. A desperate and frustrated Bearcats team turned to its full court press and it paid dividends. Trey Shifflett scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half, including back-to-back layups that tied the score at 67 after William Penn outscored Central, 28-13, in the final 12 minutes of regulation.
After the Bearcats got the ball back with less than 30 seconds left, Sowers called a timeout and drew up a play for Johnson. That 'here we go again' feeling crept back into Wagner's head again.
"I thought that he hit a pull-up just like that in the district final two years ago against Cedar Crest," Wagner said of Johnson's final shot. "So I was thinking 'Here we go.' But he missed it and the rest is history."
Wagner's coach shared that nervous energy on the sideline.
"Any time they have the ball in their hands and they have the last shot with a chance to win, I'm nervous," Central head coach Kevin Schieler joked. "I'm really happy with how overtime went and it's not just because we won. It would've been really easy for them to have in the back of their heads that we just blew a fourth quarter lead (to Carlisle) and here we are again. But I was really happy with how we responded."
Central York 77, William Penn 69 (OT)
William Penn (69)
Montrel Morgan 5 5-5 17, Kristopher Johnson 6 3-4 17, Casiano 2 1-2 7, Trey Shifflett 9 1-3 20, Wilson 2 0-0 4, Iturmendi 2 0-0 4, Snyder 0 0-0 0. Totals — 26 10-14 69.
Central York (77)
Jared Wagner 7 7-7 21, Courtney Batts 6 0-2 15, Landyn Ray 5 1-2 14, N. Markey 4 0-0 9, Edmonds 3 3-5 9, O'Neill 2 1-2 5, G. Markey 2 0-0 4. Totals — 29 12-18 77.
William Penn _ 20 _ 12 _ 18 _ 17 _ 2 _ — _ 69
Central York _ 24 _ 12 _ 24 _ 7 _ 10 _ — _77
3-point goals — WP 7 (Johnson 2, Morgan 2, Casiano 2, Shifflett), CY 7 (Ray 3, Batts 3, N. Markey).