Susquehannock had just about everything going against them in the first eight minutes of action Wednesday afternoon.
Five turnovers. Three-for-10 shooting from the floor. And the opponent's 6-foot senior center, Cyre Virgo, appeared to be nearly unstoppable, tallying eight of her game-high 16 points in the opening period thanks to Fleetwood teammates lobbing in passes to the paint over the top of the outstretched arms of Warriors defenders and Virgo finishing with layups off the glass. It resulted in a six-point Fleetwood lead at the end of the first quarter in a District 3-AAA semifinal game at Hershey's Giant Center as Susquehannock's dream of returning to the district title game for the second-straight year appeared to be in jeopardy.
But this Warriors squad can adapt to just about any situation. And Susquehannock used its many options Wednesday to persevere with a 56-36 win that felt much closer than the final score suggests.
Still in search of the program's first-ever district championship, the top-seeded Warriors (23-4) will next face No. 10 West Perry (20-5) at the Giant Center in the District 3-AAA title game on Saturday at 11:15 a.m. West Perry won, 49-39, over No. 6 Lancaster Catholic (24-3) in Wednesday's other district semifinal. A year ago, Susquehannock reached the district title game for the first time in school history, but fell to Palmyra, 46-30.
"It's always been in the back of our minds," Susquehannock senior Jess Voltaggio said of last year's district title game. "But it's been like, 'Lets play this game. Let's get this game over.'"
Voltaggio, a 6-foot center who has committed to NCAA Division III Muhlenberg College for basketball and track, was one of those many keys to Wednesday's victory. She had huge minutes off the bench, coming in to play the stopper role against Virgo and chipping in eight points in the process.
"She (Voltaggio) came in and gave us the size that we needed," Susquehannock coach Dave Schreiner said. "Obviously she hasn't played as much as I planned her to play (this season) but she's coming around. There's no better time to get some playing time. She's played the last two games. We got good minutes out of her. She scored some points and got us a couple blocks. She just changed it so they couldn't automatically throw it in there."
Susquehannock trailed, 15-9, after the first quarter but outscored Fleetwood, 47-21, the rest of the way, holding a 29-23 lead at halftime and a 40-29 advantage going into the fourth quarter. Despite Virgo and 5-foot-10 Fleetwood teammate Kendra Bamberger (15 points) trying to protect the Fleetwood basket, Susquehannock continually attacked the paint. The Warriors shot 19 of 49 from the floor (38.8 percent), but didn't make a single 3-pointer on six attempts.
The Warriors' press and depth also proved to be too much to handle for Fleetwood, who played its starters nearly the entire game, subbing in its first player at the 2:07 mark of the third quarter.
"I thought the press bothered them," Schreiner said. "It wasn't a steal every time but it changed the tempo of the game and we did get some steals out of it. That's the kind of basketball we play. And at the same time that was happening they had used three timeouts just trying to give their kids a break because he (Fleetwood coach Matt Kellett) doesn't sub. He told me before the game, 'I don't really sub anymore. We only play five or six kids.' So you got to come out and get after them and make sure his kids get up and down the floor."
Fleetwood committed just two turnovers in the opening quarter before giving the ball away 16 times over the last three periods.
On the offensive end, Susquehannock's familiar names like D-I Holy Cross recruit Shannon Druck (10 points) and D-III York College recruit Katie Wagner (12 points) were troublesome again for the opponent. Fellow seniors Abbey Barnhart (13 points) and D-III Christopher Newport recruit Makenzie Fancher (eight points) were equally damaging.
"You got to stop almost five people potentially that can score at any time (on our team)," Schreiner said. "I think last year we didn't really have that. We had three that could potentially score at any time. And right now I think that's what the difference is. And our kids handle the ball well enough it's hard to stop five people."
Also impressive was Susquehannock's 18-for-21 shooting from the free throw line. Fleetwood, on the other hand, didn't get to the line once.
"They (Fleetwood) didn't really pressure the basket other than trying to throw it over the top," Schreiner said. "We played good defense without fouling."
Reach John Walk at email@example.com.