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YAIAA teams gunning for District 3 titles (column)

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Here we go.

Playoff time is ramping up, and there's some big games in the District 3 tournament brackets this week.

Here's a look at the York-Adams teams still in the hunt for a championship and the immediate hurdles they face in attaining that prestigious honor:

No. 1 Cumberland Valley vs. No. 4 Central York
District 3 Class 6A girls' semifinal
5 p.m. Monday at Giant Center in Hershey 

Don't pay attention to the seedings or the fact Cumberland Valley is the defending state champ three years running. This is a winnable contest for the Panthers.

The Eagles enter with a 19-5 overall record and narrowly beat CD East in a District 3 quarterfinal — earning a 41-38 double-overtime win. Cumberland Valley also fell in the Mid Penn tournament, 58-43, to Class 2A Camp Hill.

Yes, Cumberland Valley has a great program, but the Eagles also appear beatable in 2017.

Enter Central, which should have the talent to compete. On paper, Teirra Preston can match up with forceful inside presence Addison Kirkpatrick, while Emma Saxton should be able to hold her own against senior guard and St. Joseph's commit Katie Jekot. Defensively, the Panthers always seem to bring it.

Guard Sarah Sepic has knocked down big shots for the Panthers, but Central York will need to shoot the ball well at the spacious Giant Center. And, as always, Saxton, Preston and Nikson Valencik must provide a formidable Big Three for the Panthers to lean on.

One thing is all but certain: It should be a good game between two top teams.

Watch: Central girls have 'everything a good basketball team needs'
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,

No. 1 Northeastern vs. No. 4 Spring Grove
District 3 Class 5A boys' semifinal

8 p.m. Monday at Giant Center in Hershey 

These clubs are certainly no strangers to one another.

They've already met twice in two intense YAIAA games this year: Northeastern won handily in the opener, 75-59 on Jan. 1; Spring Grove returned the favor, taking it to the Bobcats on the Rockets' home floor in a 77-67 final on Jan. 27.

Now it's the rubber match in the District 3 playoffs. And it figures to be a toss-up game. Perfect scenario.

Northeastern has a more balanced team, and it won't have its head in the sand when it comes to what the Rockets prefer to do. That is, get the ball to Eli Brooks, who remains the X factor in all of this. The standout senior point guard runs the show with poise and precision, and he can assault the scoreboard at any point and time.

With that, this showdown should be a battle of wills: Brooks' ability to control the game against the Bobcats' flurry of activity on the defensive end which, when executed correctly, creates turnovers and then typically explosive plays around the rim on offense.

It's worth mentioning that this is the second straight year the Rockets have made the District 3 semifinals. Last year, the Rockets fell in a wild one, 52-51, to Central York in overtime on Jared Wagner's tip-in at the buzzer.

That game was a classic. Will this one follow suit?

No. 1 York Country Day vs. No. 4 Mount Calvary
District 3 Class 1A boys' semifinal
8 p.m. Monday at Middletown High School 

We stand by the fact that York Country Day has the most talent in District 3 Class 1A. After all, the Greyhounds won last year's district title and are back perched atop the bracket as the No. 1 seed once again.

We don't think Jordan Ray and De'Aireus Brown will be denied. They're the prohibitive favorite to win the whole thing.

This is a rematch of a regular-season meeting, when York Country Day knocked off Mount Calvary, 65-33, on Dec. 16.

One thing different about the Greyhounds now is their head coach: Corey Stiles remains on administrative leave, and Chris Charleston has been running the show since mid-January. Still, York Country Day continues to roll.

No. 2 Susquehannock vs. No. 6 Twin Valley 
District 3 Class 5A girls' semifinal
6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Cumberland Valley High School

It looked like two YAIAA teams could meet in the semifinals. Talk about bad timing for a letdown.

New Oxford, ranked No. 3 in the District 3 Class 5A bracket, was upset Friday on its home court by No. 6 seed Twin Valley, 54-46.

In a sense, the Raiders are your classic postseason basketball team — a program that's somewhat off the radar yet one that has gotten hot at the right time. They survived a first-round matchup against Palmyra with freshman wing Peyton McDaniel scoring 19 points. Senior Taylor Knorr surpassed 1,000 points this season, and Julie Wallace led the Berks League in 3-pointers. Both girls have averaged double-digit in scoring this season.

At the same time, New Oxford's loss could be Susquehannock's gain. The Warriors are a talented team, yet fell into foul trouble in a 54-40 defeat to the Colonials two weeks ago in the YAIAA tournament.

Now, they don't have to worry about that rematch, as intriguing as it may have been. Instead, they'll shift their attention to an upset-minded Twin Valley club, with the winner playing for district gold.

No. 1 York Catholic vs. No. 2 Delone Catholic 
District 3 Class 3A girls' championship
6:15 p.m. Thursday at Giant Center in Hershey

Is it just me, or does York Catholic and Delone Catholic play eight times a year? No, they don't, but it sure feels that way.

On a serious note, this is the two teams' third meeting of the season. York Catholic has won the two previous ones, yet both were competitive contests —  a 67-62 final on Jan. 4 at York Catholic and a 47-46 final on Jan. 27 at Delone Catholic.

Delone Catholic has overcome key injuries to post player Jill Novak and guard Riley Vingsen this season. Head coach Gerry Eckenrode has his team playing good basketball down the stretch.

It also seems the Squirettes are simply due against the Irish, after holding second-half leads against the Irish and falling short in their two meetings.

As for York Catholic, they still rolled in a District 3 Class 3A semifinal despite the absence of star guard Kate Bauhof (flu), beating Pequea Valley, 48-31. Needless to say, Bauhof's presence in the title game is of paramount importance in the Irish's quest for their 11th district title over the past 12 years. She's a true difference maker when these two teams take the court.

If Bauhof is healthy, I give a slight edge to York Catholic in this one. But it would also be shortsighted to count out the Squirettes and their imposing post players Catie Apgar (6-foot-3) and Bradi Zumbrum (6-1) in this long-standing rivalry.