MECHANICSBURG — Tyler Williams remembers her one-and-only trip to the Giant Center like it was yesterday.
As a freshman, watching the action from the bench, Williams was able to see, in person, just what it’s like to compete on the spacious court in Hershey when the Susquehannock girls’ basketball team played in the District 3 Class 3-A title game back in 2014.
Turns out Williams won’t have to rely on those memories much longer. The Warrior senior paced her club with a game-high 14 points Tuesday when Susquehannock downed Twin Valley 48-25 in the District 3 Class 5-A semifinals at Cumberland Valley High School.
With that victory, the Warriors (22-3) will get another shot to win a district title at 11 Saturday morning against top-seeded Harrisburg at the Giant Center. The Cougars (21-3) staved off Lower Dauphin, 53-48, in the other semifinal at CV to set up a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown for the crown.
“I was just a little freshman on the end of the bench watching,” Williams said of her team’s last district final appearance. “It was just such an experience to have.”
That experience would be many times better Saturday if she and her team can repeat what they did Tuesday against the Raiders.
Susquehannock used a zone defense — something coach Dave Schreiner doesn’t normally employ — to perfection against against a TV side that was coming off an upset of No. 3 New Oxford Friday. That zone was particularly effective in the first half. The result was a devastating 20-0 run that held the Raiders scoreless for more than 8½ minutes from the final seconds of the first period through the entire second quarter.
“Everything just started coming together,” Schreiner said. “We kind of got out of man and went zone, which I thought was important to us. I knew (we) had some match-up problems at the guard position. And then shots started going down.”
Schreiner was worried about his two undersized guards, Jayla Galbreath (11 points) and Taylor Tannura (11 points), matching up against TV’s taller guards. The switch to the zone worked well in that regard, with the Raiders settling for many outside shots that fell off the mark.
When TV did get the ball inside, Williams and company were ready to force shots from difficult angles, while corralling the rebounds.
By the half, the Warriors led 30-9 and the outcome was no longer in doubt.
Now Schreiner, Williams and company will have to knock off Harrisburg Saturday to secure the program’s first-ever district crown.
While Williams, the team’s lone senior, expects her teammates to get caught up in the majesty of playing in the Giant Center, she’s determined to make her second trip a more pleasant one. Back in 2014 the Warriors fell by two points to West Perry.
“We still have to focus and prepare for that game Saturday,” she said. “It’s a completely different atmosphere up there. I remember Katie Wagner… she was so composed and Mackenzie Fancher was out there yelling and pointing out directions. That’s the same type of composure that we need to have, but instead of having five seniors, we have one. I usually yell and use my hands out on the court to try to pump up Jayla and Jaden (Walker, both sophomores) since they are both so young.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.