Chambersburg escaped Wednesday night's District 3 Class AAAA first-round boys basketball game with a 40-37 win over No. 11 Cedar Crest only after the Falcons' game-tying, buzzer-beating heave narrowly rimmed out.

Scoring as few as 40 points again in Saturday's quarterfinal contest at Giant Center against third-ranked William Penn York High (24-2) won't give the Trojans (15-8) much of a prayer in their quest to defend as District 3 AAAA champs.

This year, top-seeded Harrisburg - from whom Chambersburg ripped the district title away in last year's finale - cruised past the Trojans with a pair of double-digit wins. Although they'd love a third crack at the Cougars in a championship rematch, the Trojans have made clear to coach Beau Gantz their hopes to face off with the Bearcats.

"They've wanted to play York all year," said Gantz, unsure why his team is so intent on playing William Penn. "I guess they knew something I didn't."

The added motivation could be exactly what the Trojans need. While it's the Harrisburg comeback that sticks out as the marquee memory from last year's District 3 title run, the 15th-seeded Chambersburg had to upset No. 2 Hershey (20-2) in its second game to get there.

Chambersburg has good reason to be careful what it wishes for. York did what the Trojans could not, handing Harrisburg one of its two losses this season with a seven-point win.

Tavon Parker, who scored 32 points in the Bearcats' 74-66 first-round win over Hempfield, could be another reason Chambersburg wishes it hadn't found the Bearcats.

"I think it was a breakthrough," said Gantz of Parker's big game. "We had been concentrating on Derek Wilson (William Penn's second- leading scorer). I thought he was a better player (than Parker). Now we have two kids to worry about."

Experience in the underdog role is on Chambersburg's side. Tay Charles, Kellen Williams and Mitch Stahl were all factors at this stage of the season last year. It was Williams who, after nailing a game-tying 3-pointer, found Charles for a buzzer-beating layup in the Hershey upset.

The Bearcats aren't short on playoff exposure, either. York won the 2011 district title as the top seed. They would have faced the Trojans in last year's championship if not for a 69-54 loss to Harrisburg in the semifinals.

Much to the credit of coach Troy Sowers, York has posted another stellar record despite doing so with a much different roster.

Defense has been the key for the Bearcats during their current 18-game winning streak.

"We only returned two starters (this season)," Sowers said. "I think it took a little time to understand the team defense. Now the spacing is better; the defense has really transformed as the season's gone on."

Numerous times this year the Trojans have stolen the momentum by converting a turnover into a crowd-infusing fastbreak dunk - something their opponent usually couldn't match. That won't be the case against a high-flying Bearcats team. Wilson led York to the YAIAA championship by dunking four of his five field goals in a semifinal rout of Northeastern.

"We have to meet their intensity level," Gantz said. "They're very athletic, bring a lot of intensity and try to get you to turn the ball over."

Gantz will rely on his team's half-court offensive set to keep the season alive.

"We're not going to try and get up and down the floor," Gantz said. "We're going to make them play defense to slow down their offense."

In a tournament that's grown accustomed to big upsets - the first of this season belonging to No. 12 Carlisle (12-10), who knocked off No. 5 Exeter (18-5) on Wednesday - the Bearcats aren't jumping with joy to put their season on the line against a dangerous Trojan squad.

"I don't think my guys are thrilled to play anybody in particular at this time of the year," Sowers said. "It's going to be an exciting game. Chambersburg definitely has the talent and athleticism. We have talent and athleticism as well. Both teams know what it takes to win, so it's going to be a battle."

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Jeff Kolb can be reached at 262-4819 or jkolb@publicopinionnews.com.

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Trojans-Bearcats at a glance

Game data: District 3 Class AAAA basketball quarterfinal, Saturday, 10 a.m., Giant Center.

Teams: No. 3 William Penn of York Bearcats (23-2) vs. No. 6 Chambersburg Trojans (15-8)

Tickets: All admission to Giant Center is $6.

Outlook: In its second playoff game last year, Chambersburg pulled an upset of No. 2 Hershey, 55-53 in OT, on its way to the district title York beat this year's top seed Harrisburg, who handled the Trojans twice, by 7 points.

P.O. pick: York by 9.