William Penn found itself in a pretty precarious spot late in Wednesday evening's District 3 Class AAAA boys' basketball tournament first-round game with Hershey.
As the third-seeded Bearcats broke from the bench to start the fourth quarter, the scoreboard at William Penn High School showed Hershey, the No. 14 seed that had to win a play-in game last Friday just to be here, up by seven points.
It was at that point that William Penn finally put it together, streaking to a 26-point final quarter and emerging with a 68-54 win over the Trojans.
"For three quarters, it seemed like every rebound or loose ball seemed to go (Hershey's) way," said William Penn coach Troy Sowers. "The last eight minutes we finally had some things go our way."
The win by William Penn (22-4) sets up an all-YAIAA Division I and league tourney championship rematch with No. 6-seed Central York (19-7) at 10 a.m. Saturday in Hershey's Giant Center. The Bearcats' last loss came at Central York on Jan. 23. William Penn has won nine in a row since.
There will be no pre-sale of tickets for Saturday's game at William Penn, according to athletic director Joe Chiodi.
While the Bearcats lit up the scoreboard in the fourth quarter, they also shut down the Hershey offense. The Trojans were 1-of-11 from the field in the final eight minutes and scored just five points. Hershey was 20-of-39 from the field (51.3 percent) in the first three quarters.
"We didn't shoot as well as we have been lately," junior guard Trey Shifflett said. "They were shooting lights out early. We really had to dig down for this one. I think the turning point was picking it up on defense in the fourth quarter and getting some turnovers."
William Penn took the lead for good on a Jahaire Wilson finger roll with 4:46 remaining. The 6-foot-4 senior forward saved nine of his team-high 19 points for the fourth quarter. Senior guard D'Montie Shaw and Shifflett added four points each in the final quarter. Shifflett finished with 18 points.
"We really picked up the intensity on defense," Wilson said. "We knew we had to get it done."
In the first half, the No. 14-seed Trojans had managed to hang point for point with William Penn. The Bearcats led by as many as seven points in the opening quarter after a fast-break layup by Shifflett, but Hershey rallied back to grab a four-point lead by the end.
William Penn led by as many as eight in the second quarter after a Kristopher Johnson 3-pointer with 1:34 before the half, but again Hershey fought back and tied the score on a 3-point goal by Taylor Sweeney, the son of former William Penn athletic standout Emne'ko Sweeney. The 6-foot-4 senior guard finished with 20 points.
Hershey (14-10) then pulled away in the third quarter, snapping a 39-39 tie with a 10-3 run over the last 2:22. The Trojans capped the rally with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by 6-foot-10 junior Dylan Painter to go ahead by seven heading into the final eight minutes. Painter finished with a game-high 25 points.
The Trojans were just 6-8 in the Mid-Penn Keystone Conference this season but had come into Wednesday's game riding a five-game winning streak.
"We knew we would be in for a game," Sowers said. "Hershey plays in a tough division up there. They have been tested."
William Penn 68, Hershey 54
Wix-Rauch 0 1-2 1, Wilson 0 0-0 0, Miller 2 1-2 6, Taylor Sweeney 7 2-4 20, Dylan Painter 11 2-3 25, Sponaugle 1 0-0 2, Brier 0 0-0 0.
Totals — 21 6-11 54.
William Penn (68)
Shaw 3 1-2 7, Johnson 3 0-0 8, Morgan 1 2-4 4, Trey Shifflett 8 0-0 18, Jahaire Wilson 8 3-5 19, Smallwood 1 0-2 2, Boxley 1 1-2 3, Casiano 3 0-0 7, Delmotte 0 0-0 0.
Totals — 28 7-15 68.
3-point goals — Her 6 (Miller, Sweeney 4, Painter). WP 5 (Johnson 2, Casiano, Shifflett 2).