HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: Previewing tonight’s 3 league championship games
If you’re a Central Pennsylvania sports fan who loves high-stakes high school basketball, you’re in luck.
There are three different league championships on the line tonight, as the Lancaster-Lebanon League decides its girls champion and the Mid-Penn and the York Area Interscholastic Athletic Association will determine the boys’ championships.
The L-L League final, pitting undefeated Section 3 champion Lancaster Catholic against section rival Lebanon Catholic, will be held tonight at 7 at Manheim Township High School.
In the YAIAA, there’s a boys title-game rematch as defending league champ Northeastern faces Central York for the second straight year. The game tips off tonight at 7 at York College.
And in the Mid-Penn, State College takes on Milton Hershey in the boys championship. That game tips off at 7:30 at Central Dauphin High School.
Here’s a quick look at all three matchups:
L-L LEAGUE GIRLS CHAMPIONSHIP
Lancaster Catholic (23-0) vs. Lebanon Catholic (19-5)
The undefeated Crusaders are seeking their 12th league championship. They reached the title game by finishing first in a competitive Section 3 race, then stomped Donegal (73-47) and Elizabethtown (53-35) in the league playoffs. Led by standout guard Kiki Jefferson (18 points per game) and forward Lauren Mills (13 points per game), the Crusaders are eyeing a deep run through the upcoming District 3 Class 4A playoffs, where they are the No. 1 seed. But another L-L League title would sure be one heck of an appetizer before they tuck in to that main course.
Lebanon Catholic finished third in the section after being edged on tiebreaking criteria by Northern Lebanon. The Beavers held off Section 1 champion Manheim Township (61-59) and upended Section 2 champ Lampeter-Strasburg 38-29 in the semifinals to reach the title game. Forward Alexis Hill (19 points per game) and guard Neesha Pierre (11 points per game) are players to watch at Lebanon Catholic, the top seed in the upcoming District 3 Class 1A tournament.
Lancaster Catholic won both regular-season meetings between the two teams, beating the Beavers 53-35 on Jan. 9 and 65-52 on Feb. 2.
YAIAA BOYS CHAMPIONSHIP
Northeastern (22-2) vs. Central York (17-9)
The Bobcats are looking to capture their second straight title by knocking off Central York in the finals for the second straight season. Northeastern reeled off 18 straight victories to open the season, but fell to York High (72-64 in double overtime) and New Oxford (49-37) in consecutive games late in January. The Bobcats rebounded from those brief hiccups by winning four straight, including victories over York Tech (65-26) and Kennard-Dale (58-44) in the league playoffs. Northeastern is led by two of York County’s top players, 6-3 center Antonio Rizzuto and point guard Fred Mulbah. The Bobcats captured the Division I championship in the regular season, finishing three games ahead of Central York.
The Panthers are making their fifth straight appearance in the YAIAA title game, but they’ve lost in their last three championship game appearances. Central is hoping to avenge a pair of regular-season losses to Northeastern; the Bobcats won 59-42 in December and 67-64 in late January. The Panthers have won six straight since that latest loss to Northeastern, including a 56-42 victory over New Oxford and a 71-55 triumph over Littlestown in the league playoffs.
MID-PENN BOYS CHAMPIONSHIP
State College (21-1) vs. Milton Hershey (19-3)
It’s a marquee matchup as two of the top teams in the conference square off in the title game. State College, the defending champion, is coming off its highest-scoring game of the season after blasting Greencastle-Antrim 95-62 in the semifinals. The Little Lions’ only loss of the season is a 75-66 home defeat to defending Class 6A state champ Reading on Jan. 27; they’ve won five straight since. Drew Friberg (19 points per game) and Ryan McNulty (10 points per game) are two players to keep an eye on at State College.
Milton Hershey rallied to defeat arch-rival Hershey 77-68 in the semifinals. The Spartans have won eight of their last nine games. The Mid-Penn Capital champs are paced by DonYae Baylor-Carroll, who averages 22 points per game, and Pedro Rodriguez, who averages 14 per game.