HERSHEY — It was a long, hard journey for the Gettysburg girls’ basketball team just to get back to the District 3 Class 5-A title game Friday evening.
After falling in last year’s final, the Warriors had been working tirelessly to earn a second chance.
Taking on a Twin Valley side that knocked off state-ranked and top-seeded Mechanicsburg in the semifinals, the Gettysburg girls knew they were in for a battle.
Fortunately, the Warriors came into the Giant Center battle tested. Victories over York-Adams Division II rivals York Suburban and West York in the district draw proved that. So, facing a 2,000-point scorer, NCAA Division I recruit and quite possibly the best player they’ve seen all season in Twin Valley’s Peyton McDaniel, the Warriors were up to the challenge.
After McDaniel (23 points) put the Raiders up by four early in the fourth quarter, Gettysburg rallied with an impressive 12-0 run to take a lead it would not relinquish. While it wasn’t easy, Friday’s 46-40 triumph was immensely satisfying for the entire program, which set a new school record with the squad’s 26th victory of the season (26-3). It was Gettysburg's first-ever District 3 girls' basketball crown.
“We’ve worked really hard for this one,” Gettysburg guard Anne Bair said. “Just all of the emotions that go into this … it’s just a huge win for the team.”
Last year's loss left an impression: The seeds of Friday’s victory were sewn nearly an entire calendar year ago in the District 3 5-A title game against Palmyra. That loss on the floor of Santander Arena in Reading left a big impression on the club.
“Last year, we all knew that we didn’t play good as a team,” senior Taylor Richardson said. “It was all right there for us. This time we knew what we were in for and we just needed to play our game, tonight and we did.”
A balanced squad: While Richardson, who finished with 11 points, and Bair, who tallied 12, are the team’s leading scorers, those two are by no means the entire Warriors offense. In fact, four players — Bair, Richardson, Cheyenne Proctor and Camryn Felix — average over nine points a game each.
Proctor, who tallied eight in the triumph, got the Warriors going offensively in the second half with a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter. Felix chipped in a big 3 during the 12-0 run to put her team ahead by four (33-29).
Then there was Bair, who chipped in five during that run, and Richardson, who tallied the final four points of the run to push the Gettysburg lead to 37-29 with 3 minutes, 12 seconds left.
“Cheye hit a big shot and that started to get everybody excited,” Gettysburg coach Jeff Bair said. “Then we started to make some plays, draw some fouls and finish a little bit.”
Trying to contain McDaniel: It’s never a comfortable lead, no matter how big it is, with a player such as McDaniel on the court. Even if she missed a shot, the James Madison recruit was a danger to get an offensive rebound, which she did at least four times Friday.
“We gave up size,” coach Bair said. “And that allowed her to get some offensive rebounds, but we stayed together as a team.”
Bair’s daughter, Anne, was tasked with guarding the taller McDaniel for much of the night.
“For the most part I believe that Anne did a very good job on her,” coach Bair said. “She made (McDaniel) work hard.”
Special win for the Bair family: Friday’s victory was a little extra special for the Bair family.
Monday evening, one of Jeff’s daughters, Ellen, won a District 3 title as the coach of Linden Hall, which won the 2-A title. Friday the Bairs were able to cap it off two more gold medals for Jeff and Anne.
“Ellen got one Monday and (Anne and I) got one tonight,” coach Bair said with a big smile. “So pretty exciting for the Bair family.”
Gettysburg will now advance to the state 5-A playoffs and will play the sixth-place team from District 1, either Villa Maria or West Chester East.
Twin Valley fell to 21-7.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.