HARRISBURG – One of the most common clichés that coaches use is a plead for the players to ignore external forces, such as officials, fans or the playing conditions.
“I always tell my players to control what they can control,” has been uttered by almost every coach in the history of sports.
Following their 56-44 loss Tuesday in the District 3 Class 4-A girls’ basketball semifinals, the Kennard-Dale players didn’t seem dejected, like many athletes are when they lose a chance to go to the district title game.
The reason for their accepting attitude, as the cliché goes, was because how they lost was almost out of their control.
In the first half against No. 2 seed Bishop McDevitt, Crusaders shooting guard Olivia Fasick’s performance was uncontrollable on her home floor. The senior looked like a high-level college player in the first 16 minutes, scoring 20 points to give the Crusaders a 38-19 lead at halftime.
“We knew she was a really good player. That’s the best we’ve seen her, and we watched six or seven tapes,” said K-D head coach Aaron Eaton. “She hit more shots tonight than we saw than in any single game that we had scouted. We knew what we wanted to do to stop her, but when a good player gets on like that, it’s tough.”
The No. 3-seeded Rams battled back in the second half, cutting the deficit to eight points early in the fourth quarter after a 21-point third period. They held Fasick to four points in the second half, but her outstanding first half, which featured step-back 3-pointers, slick ball-handling and acrobatic layups, was too much for K-D to overcome.
“We were trying to stop her from shooting 3s, but she kept shooting them. We knew she was a really good player. She just kept draining them,” said K-D’s Lexie Kopko. “She’s by far their best player. … She’s going to be one to look out for in the postseason.”
Kopko leads Rams’ comeback attempt: Trailing by 19 points on the road in a high school basketball game can seem like an insurmountable deficit.
However, Eaton wasn’t surprised by his team’s comeback in the third quarter. In fact, he expected it.
“We knew (we) were going to fight. We knew we weren’t going to roll over. That wasn’t even a consideration in my mind for that to happen,” he said. “At halftime, I told them they’re not as good as they just played. They’re going to miss some shots, and we need to get some stops.”
Leading the Rams’ comeback attempt was Kopko, who scored 13 of the team’s 21 points in the third period. The junior forward led Kennard-Dale with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
“She had a really nice third quarter,” Eaton said. “We knew we needed to attack the basket, get some easy buckets and get to the foul line. We had a couple things that we wanted to run for her to be able to attack like that.”
K-D trailed by 13 points late in the third quarter. Megan Halczuk was then fouled attempting a halfcourt shot at the buzzer. She made all three shots from the charity stripe to put the Rams down 10 entering the final period.
Eaton said Halczuk, who totaled 12 points, dished out three assists and defended Fasick well in the second half, is the team’s “leader” as its point guard. The senior holds the program’s record for career assists.
“She is our leader on the floor,” Eaton said. “We gave her a challenge to go out and guard (Fasick) with the foul trouble we had in the first half, and she is going to rise to any occasion.”
The Rams had a few possessions early in the fourth quarter when they were down eight points, but they couldn’t get a basket in any of them. The athletic Crusaders effectively played keep away from the Rams to hold on for the victory and advance to the district title game.
“We played our hardest,” Kopko said. “… We gave it our all.”
District 3 4-A bracket: Bishop McDevitt (21-3) will play top-seeded Lancaster Catholic (27-0) at 6:15 p.m. Thursday in Hershey's Giant Center.
Kennard-Dale (21-4), which already earned a PIAA playoff berth by making the semifinals, will play its final home game at 7 p.m. Thursday against No. 4 seed ELCO (21-6) in the third-place game. Lancaster Catholic routed ELCO in the other semifinal, 45-24.
“We get a chance to go play one more game on our home court. That’s a decent consolation prize that we earned,” Eaton said. “We’ll also be able to restart in a new tournament. ... Winning a state game last year is going to keep us focused over the next week to get back and do that, or more, again.”
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.