HERSHEY -- The memory of a December loss to Lancaster McCaskey was fresh in the minds of York High's basketball players when they ran onto the Giant Center floor on Tuesday night.
The same Red Tornado team that defeated the Bearcats by 15 points was York's opponent in Tuesday's District 3 Class AAA semifinal.
The rematch turned out to be an entirely different story. The Bearcats led from start to finish to earn an 81-76 victory. York High will take on Harrisburg for the title at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Giant Center.
"That first game got us focused for tonight," said York High senior Tavon Parker, who combined with another senior, Derek Wilson, for 47 points. (Wilson had 10 of his game-high 24 points when York bolted to a 22-13 advantage after one quarter.) "We were really prepared tonight. We knew that everyone on their team can get to the rim, so we wanted to make them shoot 3-point shots."
McCaskey nailed eight 3-point shots, but it tried 24.
Making the Red Tornado beat them from over the top was one of the main points that Bearcats' coach Troy Sowers stressed to his team.
"I thought we were in control tonight of things we didn't do in the first game -- box out, force them to beat us over the top and sprint back on defense," Sowers said. "I told the kids (before the game) that we were pathetic in every category of basketball at their place (the Dec. 28 game in Lancaster). We turned the ball over 24 times, we gave up 14 transition points, we let them shoot 33 foul shots, and they had about 20 offensive rebounds."
York cleaned up big time on the fundamentals for the second game. The Bearcats took much better care of the ball, blocked out, sagged back on defense and didn't play much one-on-one defense on the perimeter.
York was also helped when one of the Red Tornado's leading players, 6-foot, 7-inch Devon Pinkard, picked up three personal fouls in the first 5:35 of the opening quarter. Pinkard wasn't able to return to the lineup until the third quarter.
"We let him get nine offensive rebounds in the first game," Sowers said. "We felt if we boxed him out, we could get him in foul difficulty."
York High went to the foul line 37 times and made 28 of the shots. McCaskey was just 14 of 27.
The Bearcats' Ramel Stephens was a perfect 7-of-7 at the line, including 5-of-5 in the fourth quarter when the Red Tornado rallied to cut the deficit to three points on one occasion and four another time.
"It felt good knocking down those foul shots," Stephens said. "I see it as focusing and doing the same things I do shooting foul shots at the Salvation Army. At the end of my ninth-grade year, I was sitting with fans down on the end of the arena, and I told my coach, 'one of these days, we'll be here (playing).'"
Sowers wanted his players to get the ball in either Stephens' or Parker's hands when McCaskey, which trailed by as many as 13 points, made its run.
"They were too good for us to be up 11 the whole game," Sowers said.
Stephens added 13 points to York's cause, and Jahaire Wilson, a sophomore, scored 14 points and pulled down 16 rebounds.
Diante Cherry led McCaskey with 23 points.
"The difference in the game was fouls," McCaskey coach Steve Powell said. "They won, I'll give them credit for that. But we were the best team on the floor. But, we lost."
York High will also be meeting Harrisburg for the second time this season when the Bearcats and Cougars clash in the title game. York won the first game, 59-50.
The district final appearance will be York's third in five seasons.
"Our guys put a lot of effort into it, and my coaches work very hard," Sowers said. "Both teams will bring it (on Saturday), and we'll hope for the best."
-- Reach Dick VanO linda at dvanolin firstname.lastname@example.org.