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One loss 'fueled' Susquehannock's fire

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Right now, it’s merely an old game documented in black and white in an old District 3 bracket.

Forgotten by almost all except the girls who played in it, that one night in February last year helped fuel what has been a surprising run to the District 3 championship game for the Susquehannock girls’ basketball team.

Burying the memory of an old loss has been the driving force as the Warriors prepare to play No. 1-seeded Harrisburg in the District 3 Class 5A championship game at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“After the first-round loss last year, that hurt for a long time,” Susquehannock coach Dave Schreiner said.

“Having four kids — starters — back that went through it and two kids off the bench, we didn’t want to go through that again. And we played like that (in this year’s tournament).”

YAIAA Division II champions a year ago, Susquehannock rolled into the postseason then as the No. 4 seed in the District 3 Class 3A basketball. No. 13 ELCO promptly sent the Warriors home in a one-and-done scenario, dropping Susquehannock on its home floor, 56-54.

“That’s really fueled our fire,” Susquehannock senior Tyler Williams said. “We saw the (first-round) loss last year, and said, ‘That cannot happen this year.’ And it hasn’t.”

But what happened next was a bit surprising. After losing its top player from a year ago, and returning just one senior, Susquehannock repeated its Division II success, winning the regular-season title while sweeping all division foes except Eastern York.

Looking to many like a YAIAA tournament contender, it suffered an uncharacteristic off game in a YAIAA quarterfinal. Virtually every starter played with foul trouble against New Oxford, but that setback was merely shrugged off.

Williams explained it simply enough: The league tournament is just bragging rights. The real deal is the district and state tournaments.

Refocused and re-energized, Susquehannock has defeated its three District 3 opponents by 19 or more points.

And the program could just be coming into its own. Guard Jayla Galbreath, forward Anna Mahan, guard Taylor Tannura and forward Jaden Walker will all be back next year. And Galbreath and Walker are just freshmen.

It marks the first title-game appearance for the program since back-to-back trips to the championship game in 2013-14.

Only this time, the Susquehannock team is not led by an experienced core. Williams noted she can still remember watching courtside as a freshman during the 2014 game, seeing all her senior teammates focused on every single play. That’s how she envisions this year’s game unfolding.

“Except instead of having five seniors, we have one,” Williams said.

But then again, it’s all been about the team with this year’s squad. They move without the ball, they pass the ball, they share the scoring responsibilities.

Some might argue if they made it to the title game a year early, or a year late, but the most important thing is they made it.

If you go

What: District 3 Class 5A girls' basketball championship game
Who: No. 2 Susquehannock vs. No. 1 Harrisburg
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Giant Center, Hershey
Live: Follow live updates on the action at