Spring Grove guard talks after her 20-point performance in the Rockets' 55-35 win over Cocalico in the District 3 Class 5-A playoffs. JACOB CALVIN MEYER, 717-505-5406/@jcalvinmeyer
SPRING GROVE — The Spring Grove girls’ basketball team has a strategy that many teams at all levels are taking: “Live by the 3, die by the 3.”
Against Dallastown in the York-Adams League playoff title game, the Rockets, who led the league with 133 3-pointers, died by the 3, shooting 0 for 17 from behind the arc.
Against Cocalico in the first round of the District 3 Class 5-A playoffs, however, the No. 4-seeded Rockets lived by their sharp shooting. Spring Grove made seven 3-pointers, including four from junior guard Haley Wagman, to defeat the No. 13-seeded Eagles 55-35 on Tuesday. That win clinched a state playoff berth for the Rockets.
“We really like it in our gym. We feel cozy in this place,” said Rockets head coach Troy Sowers. “In the first half, we didn’t shoot as well, but Haley and Lexi (Hoffman) knocked down some 3s. Then Ella (Kale) knocked them down in the second half. That’s been our bread and butter this year. It’s sort of live by the 3, die by the 3, but that’s the makeup of our team.”
Sowers said Dallastown’s length gave his team troubles in the league championship game, but the Eagles didn’t have the same defensive prowess as the Wildcats.
“I was happy we got some more open opportunities,” Sowers said. “(Cocalico) wasn’t quite as long as our last couple of opponents. We had some more open shooting space, and we knocked those down.”
Quarterfinals vs. Palmyra: Spring Grove (19-7) will play No. 12 seed Palmyra (13-10) in the quarterfinals on Friday at Spring Grove. Tip will be 7 p.m. Palmyra upset No. 5 seed Lampeter-Strasburg, 41-35, on Tuesday.
“Hallelujah, we play here on Friday against Palmyra. It’s always nice not to travel and to feel good in your own gym,” Sowers said. “Hopefully, we can knock down, seven, eight, nine 3s on Friday. … Palmyra is pretty good. They went into (Lampeter-Strasburg) and knocked them off, so we know we’re going to have a battle on our hands Friday.”
Wagman leads Rockets: Wagman led all scorers with 20 points, making at least one 3-pointer in each of the final three quarters.
“This season, I’ve felt more confident with my shot than the last two seasons,” Wagman said. “My range has really improved. My shot feels really good this season.”
The junior guard entered the contest 15th in the Y-A League in scoring, third in free throw percentage and second in 3-pointers. Between Wagman and Ella Kale, who made 33 3-pointers in the league season, the two Spring Grove guards made more shots from behind the arc than 17 of the other 21 teams.
“I have tremendous confidence in Haley,” Sowers said. “She shoots the ball well. … I think our girls saw she was hot tonight. We’re going to need that moving forward.”
Hoffman sparks Rockets: The Rockets started the game slow offensively, making only three baskets in the first quarter to take a 12-11 lead.
All three buckets came from Lexi Hoffman, who made two 3-pointers and a long 2-point jump shot. She ended the game with 10 points.
“We basically have four double-figure scorers,” Sowers said. “Lexi (Hoffman) is at about 9.2 (points per game), and Ella (Kale) is at 9.8. Those four (Wagman, Hoffman, Kale and Ellie Glass) at any point can light it up for 19 (points) in a game They’ve been the leading scorers at different points in the season. That’s one good part about us. We’re multi-dimensional in putting the ball in the basket from those four.”
Stout defense: As the Rockets heated up from the field in the next two quarters, their defense remained stout, holding the Eagles (14-9) to fewer than 10 points in each period.
“We work really well as a team,” said Wagman, who made two 3s in the second quarter and scored seven points in the third. “Our intensity on defense really helps us on offense. I feel like we know how to work together.”
Sowers believes with the way the team can shoot and defend, the Rockets have a good chance to make a District 3 playoff run.
“We had so many battles in Division I. We battled the (Class) 6-A schools, and in our last three games, we played Kennard-Dale, South Western, Dallastown, who we played three times,” Sowers said. “I think that we have had enough battles that will prepare us for what we’re going to face.”
Kale seals the win: The Rockets led 39-26 heading into the fourth quarter, and Kale sealed Spring Grove’s victory. The sophomore guard scored seven points in the period that featured Sowers emptying his bench halfway through. Wagman said having four players, including herself, who can score helps spread out opposing defenses.
“If one of us does have an off night, we have three other girls who can step up for the team,” Wagman said. “It takes the pressure off from us. It makes it harder on defenses to defend all of us.”
Mechanicsburg 42, Susquehannock 18: At Mechanicsburg, the No. 9 seed Warriors saw their season come to a close with a District 3 Class 5-A setback to the No. 8 seed.
Susquehannock finishes at 14-9. Mechanicsburg improves to 19-4, clinches a state playoff berth and advances to the district quarterfinals.
The loss marked the end of the careers of 1,000-point scorers Jaden Walker and Jayla Galbreath. Walker led Susquehannock with 10 points.
Gettysburg 51 Greencastle 44: At Gettysburg, the No. 3 seed Warriors downed the No. 14 seed Blue Devils in a District 3 Class 5-A first-round game.
Gettysburg (20-5) clinched a state berth for the first time since 2013. It's also Gettysburg's first district win since the same year. The Warriors moved into the district quarterfinals. Greencastle's season ends at 14-8.
Anne Bair (13), Lily Natter (11) and Cheyenne Proctor (10) each reached double digits for Gettysburg, which will play host to Elizabethtown at 7 p.m. Friday in the quarterfinals
Bermudian Springs 58, Northern Lebanon 52: At York Springs, in a back-and-forth affair, the Eagles captured the District 3 Class 4-A victory.
No. 7 seed Bermudian (16-7) will now travel to No. 2 seed Bishop McDevitt (19-3) at 7 p.m. Friday in a quarterfinal game. McDevitt had a first-round bye Tuesday.
No. 10 seed Northern Lebanon finishes at 13-10.
Hannah Chenault paced Bermudian with 21 points, including five 3-pointers, while Skyler West added 13 points.
Elizabethtown 54, South Western 48: At Hanover, the No. 6 seed Mustangs were upset by No. 11 seed Elizabethtown in a District 3 Class 5-A first-round game..
The Mustangs' season ends at 16-7. Elizabethtown, which clinched a state berth, improves to 17-7 and advances to the district quarterfinals.
South Western led 30-17 at halftime but couldn't hold on. Maddy McMaster (14), Madi Wisensale (13) and Taylor Geiman (11) each hit double digits in scoring for the Mustangs.
Solanco 51, New Oxford 44: At Quarryville, the No. 1 seed struggled before putting away No. 16 seed New Oxford in a District 3 Class 5-A game.
The Colonials' season ends at 9-14. Solanco clinched a state berth, advanced to the district quarterfinals and improved to 19-5.
Morgan Adams (14) and Daelyn Stabler (13) split 27 points for New Oxford.
Twin Valley 46, West York 39: At Twin Valley, the Bulldogs' season came to an end with a District 3 Class 5-A setback.
West York, which entered as the No. 15 seed, finished at 11-12. No. 2 seed Twin Valley improved to 18-5 and clinched a state playoff berth.
Alainna Hopta had 17 points and nine rebounds on a losing cause.
Christian School of York 38, Mount Calvary Christian 23: At York, the No. 8 seed Crusaders earned a District 3 Class 1-A victory.
CSY improved to 11-10 and will travel to No. 1 seed Greenwood (18-4) at 7 p.m. Friday for a quarterfinal game. Greenwood had a bye on Tuesday.
Emma Bell (16 points) and Laura Kruth (12 points) paced CSY.
No. 9 seed Mount Calvary finished at 10-11.
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at email@example.com.