Spring Grove defeats Gettysburg, 58-43, to claim District 3 5-A championship
Three games into this season, after a road win vs. Central York, Troy Sowers suggested his young Spring Grove team had the talent to achieve a lot this season, but only if the Rockets did the work required.
Spring Grove set a pair of lofty goals — win the York-Adams League Division I and District 3 Class 5-A titles. Two months after its first big win vs. Central, the Rockets have realized their potential by achieving both goals.
On its home floor, No. 2 seed Spring Grove (20-2) defeated No. 5 seed Gettysburg (19-3), 58-43 on Friday night, to claim the District 3 5-A championship and a spot in the state playoffs. It's the first district title in program history.
“We believed. We knew that we weren’t ready at the beginning of the season, but we knew that if we worked our ceiling was very high,” Sowers said. “We knew we had the pieces … I’m just proud their hard work and sacrifice paid off.”
One of those pieces that played a major role in the victory was freshman Laila Campbell. The 6-foot tall forward scored a game-high 24 points and was dominant for the Rockets all game.
Campbell scored the first five points of the game and added rebounds, key passes and the ability to bring the ball up the floor under pressure. Sowers credited Campbell’s drive to improve for her ability to come through with a clutch performance despite her young age.
“She just works,” Sowers said. “She works and works and works and she’s really never satisfied. I was talking to her dad (assistant coach Brian Campbell), and he told me: ‘She’s never excited, she just wants to keep working. I told him, ‘If we win tonight she better be excited.’”
Game was close for most of the night: Although the game ended with a comfortable margin, Campbell and her teammates had to hold their excitement for most of the contest. After a slow start, the teams traded baskets for most of the night and the Rockets’ lead didn’t climb higher than six points until the fourth quarter.
Campbell started the fourth with four points and pushed Spring Grove’s lead to eight within a minute. Gettysburg tried to keep the game close with a 3-pointer in response from junior Skye Shepherd, but it wasn’t enough.
Gettysburg junior Anne Bair carried the Warrior’ offense for the first three quarters, but was shut down in the final eight minutes. The Y-A D-II Player of the Year led her team with 13 points and created most of the scoring chances for her teammates, as well.
On the other side, Y-A D-I Player of the Year Ella Kale only needed one 3-pointer in the fourth quarter to help her Spring Grove team clinch the win. Kale finished with 14 points and did most of her damage in the second and third quarters with nine points after the Rockets’ offense got going.
“I knew that our offense would slowly wear their defense down and we would get what we needed to get,” Kale said. “That’s exactly what happened. We got our shots and we outscored them.”
Spring Grove junior Addyson Wagman and sophomore Leah Kale locked up the win with late free throws as the Warriors were forced to foul. Leah Kale scored 10 points while Wagman added six. Gettysburg junior Camryn Felix scored 12 points.
Time for a break: After Friday's win, Sowers said the players and coaches would get a three-day mental and physical break after a grueling run. The Wednesday-Friday District 3 format was a real challenge for the coaches to prepare for opponents in one day and required seven or eight cups of coffee daily for Sowers to prepare for the playoff games like a college student the night before a final exam.
The PIAA 5-A playoffs begin with the quarterfinals on Saturday, March 20, and following a little rest and relaxation, Sowers and the Rockets will get back on their grind. Spring Grove will open the state playoffs vs. District 6 champion Hollidaysburg (9-5), which earned its PIAA berth with a 56-40 victory over Central Mountain (17-4) on Saturday.
After getting a taste of what their skills can produce in the playoffs, Spring Grove is ready to continue the work that got them one trophy and hope it will lead to another later this month.
“It’s just an unbelievable feeling. I’m just so happy for my coaches. I’m happy for my players,” Sowers said. “Putting the gold medal around your players’ necks is the most emotional, the most rewarding, the most fulfilling thing I’ve done in my 20-some years of coaching. The gold medal is the culmination of sacrifice, effort, blood, sweat, tears and there is nothing like it. There is nothing like it.”
Reach Rob Rose at email@example.com.