Columbia wasn't ready to take the Cinderella slipper off just yet.
After pulling off upsets over No. 7 Tulpehocken and No. 2 Lancaster Mennonite, the No. 10 Crimson Tide held off No. 3 Hanover on Wednesday night, 69-63 in overtime, earning their first victory at Giant Center and securing a trip to the district title game.
The heavily favored Nighthawks trailed by double digits multiple times in the second and third quarters before making a run in the fourth. Dylan Krieger, who finished with a game-high 35 points for Hanover, sent the game to overtime when he converted an and-1 in the lane with 16 seconds left in regulation.
But the Crimson Tide, who finished 24-for-33 from the free-throw line, went 8-for-10 in overtime and outscored Hanover, 10-4.
"They just kept fighting," Columbia head coach Matt Johns said of Hanover. "They were down by 10 multiple times, but kept attacking and making plays. We were in the fight of our lives, and we pulled it out."
Foul trouble crippled the Nighthawks throughout the night. Three Hanover starters — Cam Bosserman, Jacob Rhodes and Kyle Krout — fouled out and the Crimson Tide, who were in the penalty for most of the night, shot 29 free throws in the second half. Bosserman's and Rhodes' fifth fouls came on back-to-back possessions less than a minute into the fourth quarter.
"I think the game came down to them getting to the line and converting much better than we did, and they got the loose balls," Hanover coach Nathan Myers said.
Still, Krieger mounted the comeback. The Nighthawks finished the third quarter on a 7-1 run to cut the lead from 46-35 to 47-42.
"At halftime, we said we wanted to chip away at the lead and make a run in the fourth," Myers said. "Which is what we did, but foul trouble really hurt us down the stretch."
Four times in the fourth quarter Hanover cut the lead to two, and four times Columbia countered with a run. Finally, Krieger took an inbound pass near the baseline and converted an and-1 that sent the Nighthawk crowd into a frenzy and tied the game for the first time since the first quarter.
But the Nighthawks just couldn't get over the hump in overtime. Columbia's Derek Sheckard, who finished with 24 points, made the only Tide field goal in the fourth quarter and went 14-for-18 from the line in the fourth quarter and overtime combined.
"What are you going to do defensively?" Myers said of the team's mindset after Krieger sent the game to overtime. "There was a point in overtime when it was still tied, and we got three stops in a row. But we had two turnovers, one in the backcourt, and a missed shot."
Even before the foul trouble, the Nighthawks, who were playing on one-day rest — two less than their opponent — because of weather postponements, looked sluggish at times. Hanover scored 93 points in its win against Upper Dauphin on Monday, but came out cold on Wednesday, shooting 9-for-23 from the field in the first half. Krout, who scored a season-high 25 points in the quarterfinals, was held to five points before fouling out.
"We looked a little tired on our side late in the game, but they played on Monday, and we hadn't played since Saturday," Johns said outside of his team's locker room where the Crimson Tide could be heard celebrating inside. "I think that and our depth helped a lot."
The game was a polar opposite of the first meeting between these two teams — a decisive 73-53 Hanover win in December. In that game, Hanover took a 23-point lead into the half and cruised the rest of the way.
"I learned we're a lot better than we were at Christmas time," Johns said with a laugh. "I think our guys have really bought into what we're doing. They were so unselfish. Everyone shared the ball. It didn't matter who was scoring. Everyone took a turn and everyone found the open man."
Despite the lopsided final in the first matchup, Myers' squad didn't overlook the Tide on Wednesday night.
"We knew that game would have no bearing on this one," Myers said. "It was a different part of the year. They're playing extremely confidently, and they should be."
The top three teams in the AA bracket clinch a trip to states, so Hanover has a chance to redeem itself in Friday's consolation game.
"We'll get back in the gym tomorrow and regroup," Myers said. "We have an opportunity to make the state tournament on Friday, and that's what we'll focus on."
Derek Sheckard 4 15-19 24, Justin Walton 5 3-4 16, Austin Hartman 5 2-4 12, Jarod Kashner 5 1-2 11, Halterman 1 3-4 6, Warfel 0 0-0 0, Hess 0 0-0 0
Totals — 20 24-33 69
Dylan Krieger 13 9-14 35, Bosserman 4 0-0 9, Rhodes 3 1-2 7, Krout 2 0-0 5, Etzler 1 0-1 2, Haring 0 0-0 0, Viradia 0 0-0 0
Totals — 24 13-23 63
3-point goals — C 5 (Walton 3, Halterman, Sheckard), Han 2 (Krout, Bosserman)