HERSHEY >> When you play in cozy confines like Christian School of York does for the majority of its games, getting on the floor at Giant Center can be quite a thrill.
The Crusaders and coach Mike Graybill made sure to take some time to enjoy the day, regardless of the outcome of the District 3 Class A championship contest with Lebanon Catholic.
"The girls were feeling so blessed to be here," the coach said. "We went through the hockey players' entrance soaking it all in. The school supported us, we went out as a team and had lunch together, tried to go through some of the memories. We got here, we were excited, giddy, happy to be here."
It marked the first time the CSY girls played in a district title game, and it was also the first time a girls' team from the Commonwealth Christian Athletic Conference reached the final.
That's a banner the Crusaders will gladly carry, despite a 40-20 loss to the Beavers, who won their 17th Class A girls crown.
"When you look at the medals, I told them we are going to wear them with pride," Graybill said. "That's south-central PA and of all the teams playing, schools our size, you earned that second place."
And it wasn't just the players that were enjoying their time in Chocolatetown.
"As a coach and as a player if we weren't playing, I'd be in the stands watching three games tonight," Graybill said. "It's much more fun as a coach and having a team here."
The best news is that the Christian School of York team that took the floor had no seniors. In fact, the Crusaders started two freshmen. One of them, Mekenzie Smith, posted a team-high 10 points.
Of course, Lebanon Catholic had only two seniors, a sophomore and nine freshmen on its roster. So Thursday's matchup could be one we will see again in 2016.
Graybill is certainly well aware of his team's youth — and potential. His team has something to build on now.
"As we were talking about once-in-a-lifetime type experiences I was the first one to say, 'let's do it again next year,'" he said. "One of my junior leaders said if it hurts a little bit, hold onto that for that time in June when everyone else wants to go to the swimming pool. You want to come back to the Giant Center."
The coach added that the large floor hurt his squad at times. The offense was OK early, trailing 24-16 at the break, however, the Crusaders managed only four points in the second half.
"We like to press, and the Giant Center floor distorted us a little bit. They went through it like a hot knife through butter," Graybill said. "We did a pretty good job through halftime, but couldn't get any offense going. I asked the five (regulars) did that extra emotion hurt us? All five, said 'Yes.' It's never a bad thing to admit. That's what we want to learn from."
It marked the second time that Christian School of York had a team in a district final. In 2005, the Crusaders boys lost in the championship game, also falling to Lebanon Catholic.