With four seconds left in regulation, visions of a trip to Hershey’s Giant Center may have started to creep into the minds of some on the York Catholic boys’ basketball team.
Four seconds later, those thoughts were put on hold before evaporating entirely in a heart-breaking 64-63 double overtime loss to Lancaster Mennonite in a District 3 Class 3-A semifinal Thursday at Red Land High School.
With the victory, the Blazers move on to Wednesday’s championship game against Trinity at the Giant Center. The Irish will play on Monday in the third-place game against fourth-seeded Columbia (17-7) at Milton Hershey with tip-off scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
Both teams had already qualified for the PIAA Class 3-A state tournament by virtue of reaching the semifinals.
York Catholic’s Steven Nigro came up with a huge steal late in regulation with the score 52-51 in favor of the second-seeded Irish (21-3) before being fouled by the Blazers’ Isaac Beers. Nigro calmly knocked down a pair of free throws to make it 54-51.
Beers atoned for his foul by rushing the inbounds pass down court before pulling up and draining a 3-pointer as time expired to send the game into overtime.
“We had visions of the Giant Center again this year,” York Catholic’s Andrew Forjan said. “After regulation, I had chills in my body. …It was so much fun, honestly. But, you know, they did win the game.”
Third-seeded Mennonite (23-3) denied the Irish a trip to Giant Center a season ago, defeating York Catholic in the quarterfinals of what was Class 2-A. Last year, play in Hershey began in the semifinals.
Beers would finish with a game-high 17 points. The Blazers Javan Terry had a solid night in the paint on his way to 15 points. His last basket would come with three seconds left in the second overtime and prove to be the game winner.
D’Andre Davis led York Catholic with 16 points, and Forjan (11) and Kyle Derowski (10) joined him double figures for the Irish.
Sluggish start: Things got off to a sluggish start for the Irish, who struggled to make shots early and fell into a 21-14 hole after the first quarter.
The Irish were able to stay in the contest in the second quarter despite being without the services of Melik Martin, who got into early foul trouble. The teams went into the break with the Blazers ahead 30-24. Martin would finish with six points.
“I think we just rushed our shots,” Forjan said of the sluggish first quarter. “(Head coach Blaine Claiborne) really stressed getting back on defense. We were out of position and they got easy shots. Once we settled down and got more aggressive on ‘D’ that opened up our offense for us.”
The Irish were able tilt the game heavily in their favor to start the second half by implementing 1-2-2 trap defense.
That pressure resulted in a number of Blazer turnovers and York Catholic took advantage. The Irish took their first lead of the game with 4:30 left in the third quarter when Davis drove to the hoop, absorbed contact and his old-fashioned three-point play made it 35-32 Catholic.
The Irish would go on to outscore the Blazers 20-8 in the third quarter and took a 44-38 edge into what looked to be the final frame of play.
York Catholic might have been able to close it out earlier if it had not been for the offensive rebounding of the Blazers. With the game at 50-44 Irish, Beers drove baseline, made the basket and was fouled by Nigro.
However, Mennonite grabbed the rebound on the resulting missed free throw and Carter Hurst made it 50-48 Irish.
Then with 1:30 left to play and the score at 52-48, Martin exited the game with his fifth foul and sent Jonathan Gillespie to the line for a pair. Gillespie made the first and again the Blazers grabbed a board on the second.
Beers would convert to make it 52-51 with 1:20 left, setting the stage for regulation’s final seconds.
Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org.