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It was either Central York’s Bella Chimienti or Cumberland Valley’s Jill Jekot who was going to lead their team to victory Saturday at Central.
Both athletes have joined the 1,000-point club in their girls high school basketball careers. Both are standouts and known as “stars.” And, the list of similarities goes on and on.
But, it was the Panthers who rallied around Chimienti’s high score of 13 points in the first half that earned them another victory. Central York remains undefeated and is scheduled to play State College tonight. Cumberland Valley, which is now 5-3, has Harrisburg on its schedule Tuesday. The final score Saturday was 43-27 Central.
Of the 12 games that Central has won, nine of them were by margins of over 20 to 40 points. Red Lion, William Penn, and Cumberland Valley lost by a few baskets.
“It was definitely tough,” Chimienti said. “But it’s not all about me. My team was doing really well, so it was just important for me to keep the energy up and try and keep being a leader and confident. That was really my focus in the second half.”
Central York’s assistant coach Sean Potts called Chimienti a “leader.”
“She can do whatever we ask her,” he said. “She’s a great kid. She’s quiet. She’s goofy, like all of them. But she’s very humble. She cares about her teammates and the team first.”
The Eagles’ defense was organized in the second half, which prevented Chimienti from going on a run. The Panthers scored 25 of their points in the first half. Without their senior captain scoring in the second, Cumberland Valley held them to 16 points in the second, including only 6 in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers scored 8 in the first two minutes of the game. Chimienti contributed 6 of them – two 3s that were separated by one minute – before the Eagles got their first bucket.
When heavily guarded, Chimienti said she knows it’s not just about what she can do “on the scoreboard,” but it’s also what she can do “off the scoreboard.”
“Getting steals, rebounds, assists, everything like that is very important to me,” she said. “So that’s my goal every game. Just come out and do what I need to do to help the team win.”
Without Chimienti, the Panthers still had four more on the court and a few off the bench ready to step up. Emily Crouthamel landed two 3s in the second half. Kenzie Wright-Rawls scored 6, Alivia McCaskell 4, and Jazmine Parker 2.
“I feel like our strength today was just making the extra pass,” Chimienti said. “We did very well finding each other in the middle or in the paint or even on fast breaks.”
The Eagles have lost three games in a row. Jekot has a mark on her back, and when defensive strategies work, it also stops her from performing her magic.
“We tell them, ‘Hey we gotta stop Jekot tonight,” Potts said. “This is what we need to do. This girl is one of the best players in the state. And we put a freshman on her.”
Placing attention on defending Jekot is a badge of honor because it shows just how good she really is, said Cumberland Valley’s head coach William Wolf. It’s a “desperation thing.”
He said the loss to Central was “again a team that arguably could have beat us playing man defense, they could have beat us playing zone, but they chose to again do the focus on Jill.”
The Panthers kicked up the pace when they were on a run and emphasized their attention on transitions. The Eagles were having difficulties getting inside for offensive rebounds that could’ve given them a second shot.
“We were trying to execute an offense that we don’t use very often against a really good team,” Wolf said. “We were 3 of 14 for our three. So, when we did get open shots, we did not have anybody willing to step up and make shots for us. That’s kind of a bad combination.”
Alexa Holcomb contributed 9 points to the Eagles’ offense, 8 coming in the third, but it wasn’t enough to give Cumberland Valley the lift it needed.
“We fought back,” Wolf said. “We got it to (within) 7, but ultimately, it was just too much of a mountain to try and climb. They’re really good, they’re undefeated for a reason.”
Central York and Cumberland Valley are both in District 3 Class 6A. And, there’s still a lot of basketball to be played.
“I can’t even comprehend an undefeated season,” Potts said. “Honestly, we have so many big games coming up. We have State College on Monday; they’re really good. Still have York High again. Red Lion again. A lot of big games. Lancaster Catholic. They’re so good. We have a tough schedule.”
Chimienti speaks for the seniors when she said she wants to “make sure that we do everything because it’s our last year.” She said Central’s “ultimate goal” for the season is to “win every championship we can get. Counties, districts, everything we can.”
Central York: 14-11-11-6 – 43
Chimienti, 13; Crouthamel, 8; Parker, 8; McCaskell,6; Wright-Rawls, 6; Bre Painter, 2
Cumberland Valley: 6-10-6-5 – 27
Alexa Holcomb, 9; Ashley Buncheimer, 6; Jekot,6; Reagan Baseshore, 2; Sanai Hill, 2; Sienna Manns, 2