HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: Previewing Friday night’s 2 area championship matchups

basketball

After a pair of nail-biting semifinal games on Wednesday, the Lancaster-Lebanon League boys basketball championship will be decided tonight when defending league champ Lancaster Catholic takes on Lampeter-Strasburg at 7 p.m. at Manheim Township High School.

That’s one of two championship matchups on tap tonight. Elsewhere, the York-Adams Interscholastic Athletic Association decide its girls championship as Division I co-champions Central York and Dallastown meet for the third time this season — this time for the big trophy. That game will tip off at 7 tonight at York College.

Here’s a look at the matchups:

L-L LEAGUE BOYS CHAMPIONSHIP

Lancaster Catholic (22-2) vs. Lampeter-Strasburg (22-2)

The Crusaders booked a second straight trip to the league finals, even though they had to replace all five starters from last year.┬áDavid Kamwanga helped get them there by sinking a pair of free throws with 0.1 seconds left to give Catholic a 44-42 victory over Ephrata in Wednesday night’s semifinals. The Crusaders erased a 10-point deficit to defeat the Mountaineers. It was the 14th straight victory for Lancaster Catholic who will be looking to avenge a 53-41 loss to Lampeter-Strasburg on Dec. 12. The Crusaders’ only other loss was a 61-58 non-league setback to York Catholic on Jan. 6. Johnny Besecker (10.5 points per game), R.J. Van Tash (10.4 points per game) and Kamwanga (9.3 points per game) are the top players for Catholic.

L-S built an early lead, then off Section 1 champion Hempfield for a 47-45 victory in Wednesday’s other L-L League semifinal. The Pioneers built a 19-point lead in the first half, but Hempfield staged a furious rally to cut the margin to one with under a minute left. But 6-10 center Ryan Smith scored on a clutch layup and the Pioneers hit a pair of clutch free throws in the closing seconds to reach the league final for the first time in school history with their 12th win in 13 games. L-S is just three points short of a perfect record; the Pioneers dropped a pair of close games to Section 2 foes Ephrata (47-46 on Feb. 2) and Elizabethtown (41-39 on Dec. 18). Smith, the L-L League scoring leader, averages 20.4 points per game. Isaac Beers (12.2 points per game) is another reliable scorer for L-S.

YAIAA GIRLS CHAMPIONSHIP

Central York (18-4) vs. Dallastown (18-5)

The YAIAA Division I co-champions meet for the third time this season after splitting their two regular-season meetings and the division title. Central, the defending league champion, defeated Dallastown 51-44 on Dec. 12, but the Wildcats got revenge a little over a month later, beating the Panthers 42-40 on Jan. 17. Central booked its trip back to the title game with a 33-29 victory over Susquehannock in one YAIAA semifinal Wednesday night, while Dallastown got to the championship with a 52-42 triumph over Delone Catholic in the other.

Central has won eight straight since falling to Dallastown in January. The Panthers’ featured player is Nikson Valencik, with Tierra Preston and Sarah Sepic adding scoring punch. Dallastown counters with star guard Julia Sutton, forward Sam Miller, and center Aniya Matthews. The Wildcats have won six straight since falling 32-31 to Central Dauphin on Jan. 27.