When York High boys' basketball Troy Sowers looks at his team, he sees Harrisburg, too.
"I think we're similar teams," Sowers said during practice on Thursday afternoon. "We're athletic, but we play fundamental basketball. Both teams are physical. I'm ready for a 32-minute, stress-filled battle."
The Bearcats and the Cougars will clash for the District 3-AAAA championship at 1 p.m. Saturday on the Giant Center court in Hershey.
York High will carry a 26-2 record and a 20-game winning streak into the game. Harrisburg will enter at 25-2.
Both teams won championships in their respective leagues. York captured the York-Adams Tournament crown, and Harrisburg won the Mid-Penn Tournament.
The Bearcats and Cougars met earlier this season, on Saturday, Dec. 15, at Harrisburg. York rallied from a 33-22 halftime deficit to score a 67-60 victory.
"We are going to rely heavily on what happened in the first game," Sowers said. "Not necessarily the score, because the score takes care of itself depending on how you play. We're going to look at what we did well, and what we didn't do well."
In the early part of the season, the Bearcats weren't fundamentally sound, according to Sowers.
"We've improved along the way, and we just have to keep doing things well that we've been doing well," he said. "Our biggest improvements are our team defense and our offensive movement in the half-court."
Key players: Tavon Parker leads the York High offense with a 20.7 points-per-game average and 53 3-point baskets. He's followed by Derek Wilson (13.3), Ramel Stephens (10.6) and Jahaire Wilson (9.6). Jahaire, a sophomore and Derek's younger brother, has been a force inside in recent games. He pulled down 18 rebounds against Hempfield and 16 against Lancaster McCaskey.
Parker, the team's leader on and off the court, earned a gold medal as a sophomore starter on the Bearcats' District 3 championship team in 2011. His brother, Kelvin, was the star of that team.
"I'll probably give a little speech about my experiences," Parker said. "What it's like to win a gold medal."
Parker was also in the stands at the Giant Center when York High fell to Central Dauphin East in the 2009 District 3 title game.
"You could see it on the kids' faces that they were disappointed," Parker said. "It's a huge accomplishment to get to the final, but you would much rather finish first."
Parker and his teammates are aiming to carry home the championship trophy from Hershey.
"The first game against Harrisburg was a pivotal game for us because it showed that you have to play for 32 minutes," Parker said. "It's not about who has the most talent. The team that plays with the most heart and desire will win."
Like York, Harrisburg has three players averaging in double figures. Shaquon Sheppard leads the Cougars at 14.4 a game. Jahaad Proctor is second at 13.1, and Steve Stoney is third with 12 points a game. Proctor has nailed 54 3-point shots.
A surprise for Sowers: Sowers received a surprise on Thursday when York High graduate and longtime Bearcats' fan Denny Williams presented the coach with a painting he did of the Bearcats' head coach.
Williams, a retired York City police detective, graduated from the city school in 1964 and played junior varsity basketball for the Bearcats.
"I was heavily involved in art class, and I had a lot of great art teachers," Williams said. "I had a little bit of (artistic) talent, and it was something I continued doing (after high school)."
Williams' painting was based on a York Dispatch photograph.
"The thing that struck me about it was that he (Sowers) wasn't posing. He was coaching," Williams said. "Troy's represented himself, the high school and the game as well as anyone, and I felt I had to do something for him."
Sowers received a round of applause from his players after accepting the painting.
"It was a very nice gesture, and I didn't have a clue I was going to get it," he said. "There are a lot of former Bearcats who come and watch us play, and we appreciate that."
Sowers is a former point guard for the Bearcats.
"This is where I always wanted to be," he said. "The whole coaching staff here are Bearcats."
BOYS' CLASS AA TITLE GAME
NO. 2 SEED DELONE CATHOLIC (16-9) vs. NO. 1 SEED TRINITY (18-6) AT GIANT CENTER, 6:45 P.M. FRIDAY The Squires will make their third-straight appearance in the District 3-AA title game.
They beat York Catholic last year and lost to Hanover the previous season.
This year, however, Delone must face Trinity, a perennial power from the Mid-Penn Conference that dropped down to AA this season after finishing second in the District 3-AAA bracket a season ago.
A key for Delone will be whether sophomore standout Devon Moore, who averages 15.5 points per game, will be able to play Friday. Moore rolled an ankle in Delone's semifinal win over Camp Hill on Wednesday and did not return.
Four-year starter Brett Smith (13.8 ppg) runs the Delone offense. Andrew Austin (11.6 ppg) provides an inside presence and Tanner Orndorff (7.0 ppg) adds versatility. Jake Wiles (6.4 ppg) is a long-range sniper.
Wiles is the grandson of Delone head coach Jim Dooley, who earned his 700th career win in the semifinals vs. Camp Hill. Wiles had 20 points in the Camp Hill game, including six 3-pointers.
Trinity is led by 6-4 Josh Trumpy (14.5 ppg), 6-1 Dominick Antonelli (12.6 ppg) and 6-0 Brad Wesner (10.5 ppg).
-- Reach Dick VanOlinda at dvanolinda@yorkdis patch.com.