LITIZ >> Steel-High's trip to Giant Center flashed before Dee'quan Fleming's eyes as he saw Darian McCauley pull up from atop the 3-point arc.
West York trailed by 16 points late in the third quarter, but the Bulldogs had a chance to send Friday's district quarterfinal into overtime at Warwick High School.
Fleming reached up and got a hand on McCauley's shot, preserving the fourth-seeded Steamrollers' 57-54 victory.
"It looked like it was going to go in," Fleming said, "because everybody has that Cinderella story where they can make a 3. I was just glad I'm long enough that I can get out there and block it."
The 6-foot-1 Fleming finished with two blocks and 18 points to help Steel-High (20-5) advance to Monday night's District 3 Class AAA semifinal in Hershey. The Rollers will play top-seeded Susquehanna Township, a 53-47 winner against Berks Catholic. Fifth-seeded West York (18-7) draws Berks Catholic in a consolation game Monday night at Donegal High School.
It's the second-straight season West York saw a district title chase end in the quarterfinals. Last season, Manheim Central shocked the Bulldogs on a last-second shot at Giant Center. This year, they must take the same path through a consolation bracket to keep hope alive for a PIAA tournament berth.
"I know the underclassmen are not looking toward next year," West York coach Bill Ackerman said, "because nothing is guaranteed. Ian Lalic is a perfect example of that."
Lalic left with a shoulder injury between two free throw attempts in the final 1:34. His first shot misfired off the back-left end of the rim. Lalic responded by immediately grabbing his right shoulder, which forced Terry Cains in to take the second attempt.
Ackerman speculated Lalic might not return this season.
A 5-7 junior guard, Lalic scored seven points while starting in the West York backcourt with Josh Bailey, who provided a team-high 12 points.
Lalic scored the game's first basket on a 3-pointer — one of eight for West York — to set up a back-and-forth first quarter. The Rollers pulled away by closing the second quarter on a 10-2 run.
"We really had good transition offense," said junior Jaqui Jenkins, who scored a game-high 22 points.
The theme continued into the third quarter, and Steel-High's lead grew to 41-25 before West York closed the gap.
"I thought we really punched them in the mouth in the fourth quarter," Ackerman said. "I just wish we would have swung a little bit earlier."
West York hit six of its eight 3s in the final 12 minutes and four of them in the fourth quarter.
Twice, the Bulldogs pulled within two.
Both times they did it with 3s.
Both times Ackerman called timeouts immediately afterward.
And both times, Steel-High passed its tests at the free-throw line.
"I was real nervous. I was scared," said Jenkins, who shot 8-of-10 there.
Ackerman added he wanted to force turnovers with defensive traps out of the timeouts.
"We didn't have to foul right away," he said. "In that situation, I think the team is sometimes expecting you to foul and, sometimes, that's when they make a mistake."
West York forced errant passes in some cases, but Steel-High's big lead ultimately proved too much.
Fleming credited a past experience that helped his team at the line.
"We played Harrisburg, and down the stretch we didn't make our free throws," he said. "We could have won the game. We were thinking we're not going to do this anymore."
The next day, Fleming said, every Steel-High player shot 100 free throws. The Rollers made 16-of-21 in the district quarterfinals and were 8-of-12 down the closing stretch.
Contact Matt Goul at 771-2045.
Steel-High 57, West York 54
WEST YORK (54)
Josh Bailey 3 3-5 12, Lalic 2 2-4 7, DellOrfano 3 0-0 7, Torres 1 0-0 2, McCauley 0 1-2 1, Einsig 3 0-0 7, Cains 2 1-1 6, Meckley 1 5-8 7, Valdibieso 1 0-0 2, Strickler 1 0-0 3.
Totals — 17 12-20 54.
Grayer 4 0-1 8, Dee'quan Fleming 8 1-2 18, Jaqui Jenkins 6 8-10 22, Jackson 1 6-6 8, Young 0 1-2 1, Bowman 0 0-0 0, Little 0 0-0 0.
Totals — 19 16-21 57.
3-point goals — WY 8 (Bailey 3, Lalic, DellOrfano, Einsig, Cains, Strickler), SH 3 (Jenkins 2, Fleming).