HERSHEY - What if.
That is what the third-seeded William Penn boys' basketball team was left with after top-seeded Harrisburg captured the District 3 Class AAAA tournament crown with a 78-76 overtime win on Saturday afternoon at Giant Center.
Harrisburg senior guard Jerel Patterson sank two free throws with 12.8 seconds left in overtime for the game-winning points, giving Harrisburg its 11th district boys' basketball crown. The Cougars had been tied with William Penn for fifth-most all-time.
"In sports, losing the championship game is one of the worst feelings you can have," said William Penn coach Troy Sowers. "It may feel like failure, but you had to work so hard to be two out of 42 (District 3 Class AAAA) teams to get here. You work so hard to get the gold.
"I told the kids life goes on, although it feels like death. One or two shots roll in and we are feeling elated and they are feeling like we are. We came up short and it doesn't feel good right now."
Not once, but twice after Patterson's free throws, William Penn (26-3) had opportunities to tie the score. Both possessions resulted in turnovers.
"We wanted a layup or foul shots," Sowers said. "We didn't want a jumper. We were in the double bonus, so I thought we were content with that, but in the heat of the moment, things we talk about in the timeout don't always carry on to the floor. I'm not blaming anything or anybody. We just didn't quite get what we said we wanted to get coming out of that timeout in a tie game."
"Jahaire and I both had our hands on that but I let it go," said Bearcats senior forward Ramel Stephens. "He was saying, 'I should have had it. I should have had it.' but I told him not to worry about it, we'd get it back in overtime.
"The way it was, we had plenty of opportunities to complete or make field goals, but they just wouldn't go down."
Twice with just over a minute to play, both senior guard Derek Wilson and junior guard Stephen Dickson created loose balls on defense. Both balls went out of bounds last touched by William Penn.
"That is the worst part about a loss," Parker said. "You look back and think what if this happened or what if that happened. You have to live with the what ifs."
The game mirrored the December matchup of these two squads in which William Penn found itself trailing by double digits before rallying back.
In December, the Bearcats claimed a 67-60 win in Harrisburg after being down by 11 at the half.
After being up by seven points in the opening minutes of Saturday's game, William Penn trailed by as many as 12 points in the second quarter.
At that point, the Bearcats went on a 17-8 run led by seven points from Stephens and four points each from Jahaire Wilson and Derek Wilson. Jahaire Wilson's layup off a Cougars turnover with 34 seconds left before halftime cut the gap to 38-35.
Harrisburg (26-2) extended the lead to nine points in the third quarter before William Penn went on a 7-0 run that included a 3-pointer and two free throws by Parker. Parker's trey with 4:37 left made it a two-point game.
The Cougars opened the lead up to seven points with 2:37 left in the third quarter before William Penn freshman guard Trey Shifflett scored four of the Bearcats six-straight points to end the quarter.
"They are a very good team and a very well-coached team," said Harrisburg coach Kirk Smallwood. "We knew they were going to come back and they did. We had to fight them off."
Harrisburg got 24 points from 6-foot-5 senior center Shaquon Sheppard, who was 6-for-7 from the free throw line. The Cougars also got 17 points from sophomore guard Jahaad Proctor and 12 points from senior forward Steven Stoney Jr.
"Shaquon Sheppard was the man on the foul line," Sowers said. "He made some nice turnaround shots down low too. He was the difference."
William Penn was led by 24 from Parker, 17 points from Stephens, 15 points from Derek Wilson and 12 from Jahaire Wilson. Saturday's game ends the Bearcats' winning streak at 20 games.
"In District 3, I think we may have three of the top five or six quad-A teams in the state with us, (Lancaster) McCaskey and Harrisburg," Sowers said. "It makes for a crazy District 3 tournament when you have that many solid teams. All three teams could make a long run at states.
"You can't look back now. You have to look forward."
District 3 Tournament
HARRISBURG 78, WILLIAM PENN 76 (OT)
WILLIAM PENN (76)
Derek Wilson 5 4-4 15, Stephen Dickson 1 0-0 2, Ohsajid Beard 2 0-0 4, Jahaire Wilson 6 0-1 12, Tavon Parker 7 5-9 24, Dai-Quest Casiano 0 0-0 0, Ramel Stephens 5 7-7 17, Trey Shifflett 1 0-0 2. Totals27 16-21 76.
Jerel Patterson 2 2-2 7, Steven Stoney Jr. 5 2-3 12, Jahaad Proctor 6 3-3 17, Shaquon Sheppard 9 6-7 24, Chris Britton 1 0-0 2, Jamaal Carter 0 0-0 0, Ashtin Cooksey-Easter 3 0-2 6, Donald Ralls 2 0-0 6, Domonique Lewis 0 2-2 2, James Ezell 1 0-0 2. Totals29 15-19 78.
William Penn 16 19 17 16 8 -- 76
Harrisburg 25 13 15 15 10 -- 78
3-point goals -- William Penn 6 (Wilson, Parker 5); Harrisburg 5 (Patterson, Proctor 2, Ralls 2).