York College’s Katie Wagner put it best after the Spartans defeated Salisbury on Tuesday.
Simply put, she wasn’t ready for tennis season.
“I didn’t want the season to be over,” said the sophomore, who is also a standout on the tennis courts for the Spartans. “I want to win a championship.”
“She’s not ready for tennis yet,” her coach, Betsy Witman, quickly added. “It’s still basketball (season).”
Wagner, a Susquehannock High School graduate, took an inbound pass at the top of the arc with 11.2 seconds left and the score knotted at 52-52. She raced down right side of the lane before banking home a shot that gave York the winning margin, 54-52, with 9.3 ticks remaining in a first-round Capital Athletic Conference women's playoff game.
“I was just going to drive, and if someone came to help, I’d look for the second option,” Wagner said of her final basket. “To my advantage, they weren’t there.”
A defensive stop on the subsequent Seagulls' possession meant Wagner won’t be working on forehands just yet.
The Spartans' home victory moves York into the CAC semifinals. The No.4-seed Spartans (20-6, 13-5 CAC) will face top-seeded Marymount (21-4, 16-2) on the road Thursday at 6 p.m.
“Katie does such a great job of driving to the basket, she’s hard to stop if she gets a step on you,” Witman said. “We have three options on that play (the final inbounds), the first is for Katie to turn the corner and go hard to the basket. We knew they either had to stop her or foul her.”
Wagner’s game-winner wasn’t the first of her late-game heroics. On the Spartans' prior possession, Wagner made the same drive down the right side of the lane before draining a pair of free throws to tie it at 52-52.
She was then able to corral one of her eight rebounds on the night on the Seagulls' next trip down the floor, setting up her winner after a Spartans timeout. Wagner finished with a game-high 17 points.
In a game that featured 13 ties and 14 lead changes, making on-the-fly adjustments was crucial.
One of the things Witman knew her squad had to squash early was Salisbury’s success on second-chance opportunities. The Seagulls scored 10 of their 25 first-half points on offensive rebounds.
“I was really pleased with the rebounding,” Witman said. “I thought in the second half we had to really get after it on the boards.”
Sam Hruz was a force in the paint for the Spartans, helping to limit the Seagulls' second efforts. Hruz finished with 10 rebounds — eight on the defensive glass — and blocked seven shots. She also added 13 points on the offensive side.
York would eventually win the rebounding battle 45-38 and also scored more points in the paint at 20-14.
Julianna Lambert provided the Spartans’ spark off the bench in the first half, scoring all 10 of her points, with eight of her points coming in the second quarter. She helped the Spartans start to shift momentum to their favor.
Although just a sophomore, Wagner has stepped up in a big way recently for York. When starting point guard Brianna Bisci went down with an injury, Wagner was asked to slide from the two-guard position and take over for Bisci.
“It was hard at first,” Wagner said of the shift. “Even in high school I never played point guard. It was definitely an adjustment.”
One that Witman said Wagner has done an outstanding job in making.
The Spartans hope Bisci’s possible return Thursday can help Wagner shake a stout Saints defense and continue to contribute.
“They play excellent defense,” Witman said of the Spartans' next opponent. “We have to make sure we’re playing together and our timing is good on offense. Against Marymount, it’s a game of execution; the key is going to be rebounding.”
The Seagulls were led by a 16-point, 10-rebound performance from Julianna McLaughlin. Lauren Rothfeld added 12 more for Salisbury. Salisbury finished at 13-13 and 9-9.
Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org.