Related: Susquehannock girls' basketball beats West York, advances to District 3 Class AAA championship
HERSHEY -- Missing the YAIAA tournament and finishing second in Division II of the league was the best thing to happen for this Susquehannock girls' basketball team.
Talk to their players, and they believe it. So does their coach Dave Schreiner.
The coach cut down practices by about a half hour to 90 minutes. He took away some of the high-intensity drills, limiting five-on-five sessions, and relied on stuff such as shooting and dribbling contests to keep that competitive fire burning.
Not surprisingly, Susquehannock played sharp in its advancement past Conrad Weiser. Quite surprisingly, it handed second-seeded Lancaster Catholic a loss in the quarterfinals before beating the Bulldogs, 43-42, on Wednesday.
But maybe it shouldn't be a surprise.
"Lancaster Catholic was not a fluke," Schreiner said. "We went out there and earned that victory.
"We had some tough losses this year," he said. "We lost to Dover twice by two points, we lost to Red Lion by two, we had West York up at their place and up by nine. We didn't always score consistently."
That wasn't the case in Wednesday's District 3 semifinal, which advances the Warriors to their first district final against unbeaten Palmyra at 11 a.m. Saturday back in Hershey. Jeanette Wilson and Katie Wagner made sure there was some sort of consistency.
As the Bulldogs' racked up turnover upon turnover in the early stages Wednesday, Wilson drained jump shots from the arc with consistency. Later, Wagner provided the inside punch. A player Schreiner wanted earlier in the season not to get caught up with 3s and "play within her area in that key," as the coach said, Wilson heeded that advice. Wagner, who he wanted to attack the basket instead of settling on the perimeter, sliced to the basket on the first possession not only to open the third quarter but the fourth, too.
The two were the only double-figure scorers for Susquehannock, and their offensive punch pushed the Warriors against an opponent that beat them, 58-49, back on Jan. 14.
Losing by nine to a team it led by nine was not lost on Wagner or Wilson.
Of course they looked at the video of that previous meeting. At the time, the Warriors weren't pressing with the tenacity they have had during this district run.
"Watching the film, we knew we had a great first quarter the first time we played them," Wilson said. "We realized we needed to this for 32 minutes and keep up the pressure all the time and don't let down."
Wilson thought the Bulldogs (23-5) hadn't faced a team with their style of defensive pressure, one that forced errant passes in transition, out of bounds to the bench and too high for anyone to pull down. West York committed 17 turnovers, but it cut that down after 10 in the first quarter, when Susquehannock scored 13 straight points and jumped to an 11-point lead.
A surprising start? Maybe not when they've done this before.
With all five starters back from last season, expectations were high entering the regular season. That just increased a sense of urgency entering the postseason.
Come Saturday, a district title would make up for what didn't happen in December and January. Vindication is close if not already here. It almost wasn't a joyous celebration at midcourt for Susquehannock. When Emily Wood's last-second attempt rolled around the rim, it just happened to roll the Warriors' way for once.
"We definitely had some tough losses during the season," Wilson said. "We're finally catching our break. Katie said when we beat Lancaster Catholic, 'Games are finally going our way,' and she's right. We're coming together and doing what it takes to win."
Wagner added after beating West York, "I much rather come together now than at the beginning of the season."
Matt Goul is a high school sports reporter for the Daily Record/Sunday News. Reach him at 771-2045, email firstname.lastname@example.org or @mgoul via Twitter.