It's getting down to crunch time in the District 3 girls’ basketball playoffs, and four local teams are still very much in the hunt for gold medals.
The York area is guaranteed to have at least one school — York Catholic — playing for a district title.
In addition, three other programs — Central York (6-A), Susquehannock (5-A) and the Christian School of York (1-A) — could join the Fighting Irish with victories in their semifinal contests this week.
Looking for gold: The Panthers (21-4) have had their eyes on winning a District 3 title since last season began. They came close last season, getting to the semifinals at the Giant Center, only to fall in a heart-breaker to Cumberland Valley.
This year they'll get a chance at a do-over when they face No. 2 seed Elizabethtown (19-6) at the Giant Center at 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26. A victory moves them into the final at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28, back in Hershey.
While Central is hoping to flip the script this season, Susquehannock (22-4) will be just fine with a repeat of last season. The Warriors knocked off Twin Valley in the semifinals before downing Harrisburg in the final to claim the 5-A title in 2017.
This time around, the No. 5 seed will get top-seeded Lower Dauphin (23-2) at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27, at Milton Hershey. The winner advances to the final at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 3, at the Giant Center against the winner of the Harrisburg-Twin Valley semifinal.
Speaking of repeating history, York Catholic (13-12) has a long history of doing just that. Winners of 10 District 3 titles in the past 11 years, the Irish are back to defend their crown once more.
For coach Kevin Bankos' team to repeat as 3-A champion, however, it will need to score an upset over top-seeded Trinity (18-2), a team that handed them a 52-36 setback to begin the season. The YC/Trinity contest is slated for tip at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28, at the Giant Center.
Playing all season without standout Kate Bauhof, the Irish struggled for much of the season. Victories over rival Delone Catholic to end the regular season and then in the district semifinals on Friday, Feb. 23, have given the squad a boost of optimism heading into Wednesday’s title game.
The Christian School of York has fielded one of the better District 3 1-A squads over the past four years. Unfortunately for the Crusaders (20-5), the Lebanon Catholic Beavers have been an obstacle they’ve yet to overcome.
CSY punched its ticket to a semifinal contest at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27, at Manheim Township with a quarterfinal win vs. a Veritas Academy team that knocked them out of the Commonwealth Christian Athletic Conference playoffs last week. Now the Crusaders will get the top-seeded Beavers, who look to be the odds-on favorites to earn yet another district title. Lebanon Catholic beat CSY earlier in the season, 62-41.
Lebanon Catholic (20-6) knocked off Manheim Township (6-A) and Lampeter-Strasburg (5-A) in the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs before giving Lancaster Catholic, the top-seeded team in 4-A, a run for its money in the league final.
Seeking PIAA berths: In total, nine local programs remain alive, with five (Central York, Susquehannock, Spring Grove, York Catholic and CSY) having already earned PIAA state berths.
At least one additional team will join them when York Suburban (14-10) and Kennard-Dale (13-11) square off in a 4-A consolation contest on Tuesday, Feb. 27 at West York. The winner claims a state berth while the loser’s season is over.
The other two — Dallastown (6-A) and Delone Catholic (3-A) — will need one more victory to punch their ticket to states.
The Wildcats (18-8) have two consolation contests guaranteed, starting with one on Monday, Feb. 26, at Cumberland Valley against Manheim Township (18-6). A victory over the Blue Streaks — whom Dallastown defeated in the regular season — earns a PIAA berth. A loss, however, means that the Wildcats will have to win the seventh-place consolation contest Thursday, March 1, at Hempfield High School against either Penn Manor (15-9) or Cedar Cliff (17-7).
For the Squirettes, it's a bit simpler. Delone (20-5) will need to defeat a Pequea Valley (13-11) squad that gave top-seeded Trinity a run for its money in the semifinals. That consolation contest is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 27, at Warwick High School.
Spring Grove (16-8) is playing only for state seeding after falling in the quarterfinals to Twin Valley. The Rockets will get Solanco (16-9) at Central Dauphin East at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27. The winner will play for fifth place against the winner of the Palmyra/Lampeter-Strasburg consolation at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 1, at Milton Hershey. The losers will play that same night at 7:30 p.m. for seventh-place.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.