Kari Lankford was among the spectators two years ago when the West York girls' basketball team played at the Giant Center in Hershey.
Lankford, who was in eighth grade at the time, hoped she would get a chance to play some day in the 10,000-plus seat arena.
Lankford's hope has turned into reality. Wednesday night, she and her West York teammates will be on the floor of the Giant Center to take on another York County team, Susquehannock. The winner will earn a place in Saturday's District 3-AAA championship game.
"It's an amazing opportunity to play there," Lankford said during practice on Monday afternoon. "It's such a high accomplishment to get there."
Neither Lankford nor her coach, Jon Shultz, are surprised
"I said at the beginning of the year that the (York-Adams League) is one of the toughest leagues in the area," Shultz said. "One thing we learned from playing them (Susquehannock) the first time is how aggressive they are on the fast break. Defensively, we may do something a little different this time, but I don't want to go into it too much."
West York won the first game, 58-49, by outscoring the Warriors, 21-3, in the fourth quarter.
"Our kids had a real sense of urgency to win that ballgame," Shultz said. "Of course, we know that, after beating Lancaster Catholic, everyone on the Susquehannock team will be confident going into Wednesday's game."
The Warriors handed Lancaster Catholic its first defeat of the season, 59-53, in the quarterfinals. West York, meanwhile, defeated Berks Catholic, 58-46, in the same round.
West York will enter Wednesday's game with a 23-4 record, and Susquehannock will check in at 17-7. Since the loss to the Bulldogs, the Warriors have won eight of 11 games.
Two juniors, Shannon Druck and Katie Wagner, are combining for 22 Susquehannock points a game. Lankford and another sophomore, Emily Wood, team for 21.5 West York points a contest.
The Bulldogs have been playing since Jan. 21 without their leading scorer, Sarah Shearer.
Shearer, who was averaging 13.0 points a game, sustained a season-ending knee injury. She reached the 1,000-career-points milestone in the Susquehannock game.
The Bulldogs, though, refused to let Shearer's absence prevent them from advancing to the York-Adams Tournament title game and district semifinals. Both West York and Susquehannock have also qualified for states.
"All the seniors said, we can still do this without Sarah," Lankford said. "Even though we lost a big piece of our offense, everyone stepped up for us. Sarah's been at every game, and she's like another coach."
West York will need contributions from everyone to defeat a Susquehannock team which is playing extremely well.
"We know they're riding high right now, and they will come out and play hard," Lankford said. "We need to match their intensity."
Dick VanOlinda covers high school sports for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at dvanolin email@example.com or 505-5407.