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Worst losses can fuel next season (column)

Even now, almost a year later, it stings. 

Basketball can be brutal in that way. 

One bad minute can ruin a season's worth of joy. 

And did it ever go sour for Susquehannock girls' basketball in the final minute of the 2015-16 season. 

A No. 4 seed in the District 3 tournament, Susquehannock suffered a season-ending loss to No. 13-seeded Elco. The game was played in Glen Rock, in Susquehannock's home gym. And, just in the final minute, Susquehannock had at least three chances to win or tie the game. 

The Warriors had a chance to score the go-ahead points: missed shot.

The Warriors had their best player driving through the lane for the tying bucket: ball bounced off her foot.

The Warriors had a layup to tie the game: missed shot.

"We come in to the playoffs, we're at home, and to stumble the way we did, that's a hard one to swallow," Susquehannock girls' basketball coach Dave Schreiner said. 

Susquehannock surprised almost everyone last season. Coming off a .500 season, the Warriors uncorked a 21-win season and won the YAIAA Division II title.

Don't forget this was a program many figured was still rebuilding. Just three years ago, a senior-laden Susquehannock team advanced to the District 3 championship game. 

The Warriors might have been a little ahead of schedule last season. They had a combined six freshmen and sophomores contributing on varsity. Still, all that good stuff happened. 

Now they could be primed for another run. They lost Ashley Stone, a freshman on the Shippensburg University basketball team, to graduation. But almost all of the Warriors' other players return. All those young players are a year older, a year more experienced.

So Schreiner tried to set the tone.

"I told the kids on the very first day, 'That feeling we felt at the end of last season, I don't want to feel that ever again,'" Schreiner said. 

That is how the new season began: Remember the pain, because we can use some of that negativity to fuel this year's squad.

"We need to get the kids focused every day," Schreiner said. "That's the mindset you have to have. It takes a full season of hard work to be successful."

He knows the league. He knows what programs will challenge the Warriors for a division title. There's West York and York Suburban and Dover and Eastern ... and soon Schreiner has rattled off every team in the division. 

"That division is going to be a dogfight," he added.

Welcome back to basketball season.

It's a time of year when every team can convince itself it has a chance to win a title.

It's a time to look back at a lost season or a disappointing final minute for inspiration. 

And it's a time to focus on where your team is headed.