HERSHEY - It seemed like things were starting to flow in the right direction for the Susquehannock girls' basketball team Saturday afternoon against West Perry.
First, senior standout Katie Wagner eclipsed the 1,000 career-point plateau late in the third period to draw her team within one point.
Moments later the Warriors finally grabbed the lead and seemed destined to earn the program's first District 3-AAA title.
But after stretching their advantage out to four points, things started to crash back down for Coach Dave Schreiner's outfit. A couple of turnovers during four consecutive scoreless possessions allowed the Mustangs to regain traction.
After a 3-pointer by Erica Hile was followed by a free-throw that tied things up, a costly lapse after a missed attempt at the charity stripe allowed Hile to grab the board and score on the putback.
Another scoreless possession followed by the Warriors, who were forced to attempt for a steal or commit a foul to stay alive.
That's when little-used guard Samantha Knisely knocked down the first two of her three foul shots to help the Mustangs earn a 48-46 victory.
"Basketball is a game of possessions," Schreiner said. "And we had probably four bad possessions in a row. We have a turnover and then they come down and hit a 3. And then we throw the ball away twice in a row."
Despite Wagner's career accomplishment, the mood was pretty somber after the final buzzer sounded. A second runner-up finish was not what the senior-laden Warriors had in mind when they woke up Saturday morning.
"The hardest thing for the kids is that they expected to win," Schreiner said. "The expectation was that we were here last year and this year we expect to win."
One of the main reasons the Warriors were left with silver medals for a second year in a row was West Perry's Megan Smith. The 5-foot-11 forward dominated the first half, scoring 15 of her game-high 19 points to put the Mustangs up by nine, 26-17, at the break.
Smith, however, was bottled up pretty well by Warrior standout Shannon Druck (15 points) throughout much of the second half. Druck held Smith scoreless in the third period and the Mustang senior didn't score until converting a layin to cut the Susquehannock lead to 40-38 midway through the fourth period.
And to think that it was just moments earlier when it appeared as if the stars were lining up for Schreiner and company. A 7-0 run that capitalized on a couple turnovers by the Mustangs put the York-Adams League Division II co-champs up 40-36 right around the five-minute mark.
"Everything was coming together," Schreiner said. "But I also knew that there was a lot of time left."
Too much time, as it turned out. Smith's bucket ignited a 10-2 blitz that put West Perry ahead by four, 46-42, with just over a minute remaining.
Knisely, who was only in the game after two West Perry players fouled out, calmly knocked down a pair of free-throws that stretched the lead to 48-43. Those were the first two freebies that Knisely attempted all season long.
Mackenzie Fancher drained a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 48-46, but with just 0.5 seconds left on the clock, a miracle finish was not in the cards.
"I told the kids that from every bad experience, something good comes out of it," Schreiner said. "We still have a lot of basketball left to be played and we have to look forward to playing again next week."
Notes: Wagner, who came into the game needing just seven points to reach 1,000 for her career, hoped that she would earn her milestone in a winning effort.
"It's exciting," said Wagner, who finished with 11 points. "But I just wanted the district championship."
West Perry (48)
Knisely 0 2-3 2, Ulrich 5 4-4 14, Smith 8 3-6 19, Hile 3 0-0 7, Harris 0 1-2 1, Stauffer 2 0-0 4.
Three-point goals: Hile. Totals: 18 11-17 48.
Susquehannock (46) Lebo 0 1-2 1, Fancher 2 0-1 5, Barnhart 0 1-2 1, Stone 3 1-2 8, Voltaggio 1 3-4 5, Druck 3 8-10 15, Wagner 3 5-6 11.
Three-point goals: Stone, Fancher, Druck. Totals: 12 19-27 46.
West Perry 14 12 8 15 - 48
Susquehannock 11 6 16 12 - 46