GLEN ROCK — There’s always a little bit of nerves heading into a potential season-ending contest.
The Susquehannock girls’ basketball team is all too aware of that.
It was only two years ago when the Warriors were upset in the first round of the District 3 playoffs by visiting ELCO, ending the team’s promising season much too soon.
Coach Dave Schreiner and his squad, however, learned from that experience. They demonstrated that by not only winning their first-round contest a season ago, but winning every contest in the District 3 5-A bracket to become champions.
Tuesday, Feb. 20, was a bit of a Groundhog Day experience for Schreiner and his Warriors when they hosted Hershey in the first round of this year’s 5-A bracket. The Trojans posed a number of issues for the home team throughout the night, drawing within six points in the second half on two occasions.
The Susquehannock girls, however, were able to pull away late en route to a 47-32 triumph. The win assured the Warriors of a state playoff berth.
The fifth-seeded Warriors (21-4) will move to the quarterfinals Friday, Feb. 23, against No. 4 seed Lampeter-Strasburg (21-3), which knocked out fellow York-Adams Division II rival Dover, 62-50. Friday’s contest will take place on the Pioneers' home court at 7 p.m. No. 12 seed Hershey finished at 13-10.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Susquehannock standout Jayden Walker said. “We know that no games in districts are easy, so we knew we had to battle and I think we did.”
Walker comes up big: Walker played a big role in her team’s victory. The junior scored a game-high 18 points, including a perfect 6-for-6 night at the free throw line. She also converted on baskets several times that pushed those six-point advantages back to eight.
“She may not be the leading scorer in York County, but I think that she’s the best player,” Schreiner said of his junior playmaker. “And I firmly believe that. All-around player, she’s the best.”
Walker, who leads her team in scoring and rebounding, proved her coach’s point all night long vs. Hershey. She was aggressive in the paint with rebounds and put-backs, played a key role in handling the Trojans' pressure and was a strong presence in the paint against the Hershey offense.
“When she plays at the level that she’s capable of playing at, and I’m not just talking about scoring points, she’s active,” Schreiner said. “And tonight she was active.”
Getting help from Mahan: While she may not have needed it, Walker had help from fellow forward Anna Mahan. Mahan chipped in 13 points offensively and was equally as physical inside the paint.
“I thought that Anna and Jayden worked really well together tonight,” Schreiner said.
Walker, a Division I recruit as just a junior, could likely score 20-30 points a night if that is what her team needed. Instead, she plays together with her teammates, who have developed a share-the-ball mentality. So games such as Tuesday, in which she scored above her season average of 15.0 points per game, come naturally form the flow of the game, as opposed to a concerted effort to rack up points.
“As a team we just try to turn or ride the tide together,” Walker said. “Often we’ll get like a defensive stop that leads to me scoring, so it’s as a team. I don’t feel like I have to turn the tide myself.”
L-S up next: Now that the Warriors have assured themselves of at least two more games in the district draw, the team can focus on taking down a tough L-S side Friday. In addition to eliminating Dover, the Pioneers defeated Hershey and Central York this season, giving them three common opponents with Susquehannock.
Schreiner couldn’t hold back a little bit of optimism heading into Friday.
“We’ll get ready for a big challenge on Friday,” Schreiner said. “But it’s not only a big challenge, it’s a great opportunity too.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.