The big lead was gone in the school's first-ever PIAA girls' basketball tournament game, and not a senior was to be found on the floor, on the bench, or even on the roster.
Despite all of those factors, Christian School of York found a way in Saturday's Class A opener.
Math, Civics and Sciences cut a one-time 12-point Crusaders lead to two with a minute and a half to play, and the Mighty Elephants had the ball. However, a block, a rebound and a defensive stand stemmed the tide, and free throws helped Christian School of York win its PIAA Class A debut, 44-41.
"As a team, they buy into what I tell them. They really are great listeners and great kids," Crusaders coach Michael Graybill said. "They were comfortable with the psychology that whatever the other team did, we would just try to combat it and stay disciplined."
Christian School of York, which finished second in District 3, improved to 21-7 and will face Portage, the fourth-place team from District 6 that defeated District 5 champ Tussey Mountain. That second-round game is scheduled for Wednesday at a time and site to be determined.
The Crusaders led 36-24 early in the fourth quarter, when the Elephants seized the momentum. Later, Kyesha Fields banked in a shot that brought MCS within 41-39.
After getting the ball back, the second-place team from District 12 missed a pair of free throws, but got the offensive rebound. But CSY's Mekenzie Smith blocked a shot, and Bailey Stauffer grabbed her 19th rebound of the game.
Freshman Kendis Butler, who led the Crusaders with 15 points, drained 3-of-4 free throws the next two times down the floor, pushing the lead back to 44-39 with less than 30 seconds to play.
Fields added a basket with 4.5 ticks left, and although the Elephants got off a final shot, the long 3-pointer from three-quarter court was off at the final buzzer.
"We had to step up and keep fighting. Keep playing good defense. We always try keep focused on defense and just play hard," said CSY sophomore Bailey Stauffer. "It's amazing. It was so exciting to get here and so fun. It's really good experience. All the work we put in has all paid off."
Stauffer came up with the big play seemingly every time it was needed. The 5-foot-6 sophomore posted 10 points, to go along withe those 19 boards, and had a pair of assists.
"A couple of my girls will just fight and fight and fight. She is not going to let go — ever," Graybill said. "We say that a rebound is as good as two points. That's the equivalent of 38 points as far as I am concerned."
The Crusaders looked home free when Kaitlyn Hess hit a streaking Stauffer with a pass for a layup that put her team up 38-28 with five minutes to play. However, Hess fouled out a few seconds later.
"We talked about at the beginning of the year, you not only have to know your role, you have to buy into it," Graybill said. "When we lost Kaitlyn Hess, who's a big leader on the floor and off, we needed someone else to step up and handle their pressure."
Fields, who led all scorers with 16 points, hit 1-of-2 from the line and a short while later, Bianca Dunn drilled a long 3-pointer that started the 11-3 that got MCS back in the game.
MATH, CIVICS & SCIENCES (41)
C, Kerrin 0 0-0 0, Kyesha Fields 6 4-6 16, Imani Kerrin 6 0-2 12, Rippy 0 0-0 0, Bianca Dunn 4 3-5 12, Evertt 0 0-0 0, Soloman 0 1-2 1.
Totals — 16 8-15 41.
CHRISTIAN SCHOOL OF YORK (44)
Martin 0 0-0 0, Shelton 0 0-0 0, Kendis Butler 5 3-6 15, Mekenzie Smith 4 2-5 10, Larson 1 2-2 4, Landis 1 0-1 2, Bailey Stauffer 5 0-1 10, Tschopp 0 0-0 0, Hofer 0 0-0 0, Hess 1 1-2 3.
Totals — 17 8-17 44.
3-point goals — MCS 1 (Dunn), CSY 2 (Butler 2).