HERSHEY >> David Archer emerged from the Impact Academy locker room at Giant Center and hopped in place trying to catch his breath.
His players had just doused him in water, soaking his sweater and dress shirt. He walked down the hallway and tried to compose himself.
This was a first, and he didn't mind the postgame antics if it meant his kids could behave like kids for a few more minutes. In its first year of existence, Impact Academy won the District 3 Class A boys' basketball championship, defeating Millersburg, 65-59.
"We weren't supposed to be here," Archer said.
The victory provided Impact with a championship a year after some of the same main characters clinched the same title in New Hope Academy's final year of existence. Impact took up residence in the same building in York where New Hope played, Archer headed both programs, and Nykam Beverley and Elliott Wilson — starters on this year's team — played for the now defunct Mighty Ants.
But this was not always a smooth transition.
"We lost most of our players ... we lost a couple of our friends," said Wilson, with a gold medal still hanging from his neck. "We really didn't have our head in it in the beginning of the season."
Impact welcomed new players, including standout Juwan Gooding, who split his first three seasons of high school in Massachusetts playing for Milton, New Mission and then Milton High School again. Freshman Rahkeem Swanston, who Wilson and teammates call "Bobo," came from the Virgin Islands.
"Our trust level in the beginning wasn't as close as it needed to be," Wilson said of welcoming new players to their new city.
Wilson pointed to a team meeting held after the third game where players sat down and talked.
"We had to keep our heads and know it's not all about ourself," Wilson said. "We call each other brothers now. We know that Impact is a private school, and we wanted to prove that all people can come from different cities and come together as one and improve to win a district championship."
The behind-the-scenes work paid off. Gooding scored a game-high 23 points with Wilson adding 22 for a team that looked cohesive.
Gooding, who called Archer a friend of his father, moved to York at the beginning of the school year.
"I ended up moving down here to get my grades up and to be eligible for college," Gooding said. "I'm still trying to decide (on a college). I have to take SATs and get another prep year (at Impact's prep school), so hopefully I get a couple more looks.
"Whenever I can go home (to suburban Boston) on weekends I do."
But this is what he's grown up doing.
"I've been traveling and playing basketball for a long time," Gooding said. "I'm used to staying in hotels. I'm never home usually so this is normal for me."
Impact clung to a one-point halftime lead, unable to take advantage of numerous chances that would have allowed it to stretch three- and four-point leads to double digits. But both teams suffered from miscues. The teams combined for 28 first-half turnovers. Complicating matters, Impact converted just 2-of-9 from the free-throw line to open the game.
Impact changed the tempo at the end of the first half, pushing the pace. That style continued in the second half, with Impact's press sparking a six-point run during a third quarter it dominated with a 22-10 run.
"When it was a 15-point (deficit), we were trying to limit damage and try not to get blown out," Millersburg coach Todd Wingard said.
Much like the Indians did in overcoming a 28-point deficit in the district semifinals, however, "our kids responded," Wingard said.
But even though Impact looked a little sloppy in the fourth quarter, it didn't affect the game's outcome.
Millersburg's Connor Keim knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to four with 1:17 to play, but Impact held on.
"They tried to showboat a little bit, but they can afford to do that," said Wingard, laughing about the talented Impact squad. "That's how good they are."
For Archer and Impact, the journey continues in the state tournament Friday. Impact will play the third-place team out of District 4, which will be decided when Cowanesque Valley and North Penn Mansfield play at noon Saturday in Wellsboro.
And Archer continues to point out his players have been survivors. After all, several of his players went through the closing of New Hope. Some of his players from last year experienced the sorrow of burying a former teammate at the start of the school year. And he points out that his players are more than just a basketball team.
"This season started with tears," the coach said. "We were playing for something bigger for ourselves."
That's something he hopes will continue.
Contact Jim Seip at 771-2025.
Impact Academy 65, Millersburg 59
IMPACT ACADEMY (65)
Juwan Gooding 7 8-11 23, Elliott Wilson 10 2-8 22, Kharon Parson 9 2-4 10, N. Beverley 3 0-2 6, Swanston 1 2-2 4, Valentin 0 0-0 0, Jimenez 0 0-0 0, Almonte 0 0-0 0, J. Beverly 0 0-0 0, Rosa 0 0-0 0.
Totals — 25 14-27 65.
Christian Keiter 4 11-15 19, Christian Wingard 5 0-0 14, Keim 3 0-0 7, Warfel 4 0-0 9, Prime 0 2-2 2, , Snyder 2 1-2 5, Burger 1 1-4 3.
Totals — 19 15-23 59.
3-point goals — Impact 1 (Gooding 1). Millersburg 6 (Wingard 4, Keim, Warfel).