Susquehannock claims first District 3 title in final seconds
Sophomore sinks two, team celebrates District 3 Class 5A championship. (Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com)
HERSHEY - Susquehannock's players would say later, they knew they won the championship when a whistle sounded and Harrisburg was called for a foul with 1.9 seconds left in the District 3 Class 5A championship game.
Never mind the tie score.
Susquehannock sophomore Jaden Walker still needed to make a free throw to break the tie, but nobody in red had any questions about what Walker would do.
"She's got this, there was no doubt in my mind," Susquehannock senior Tyler Williams said.
Watching the play and foul unfold, when Harrisburg was whistled for a foul on the wing, Susquehannock point guard Jayla Galbreath immediately jumped up and down in place on the Giant Center hardwood.
"I had full confidence," Galbreath said. "That's my best friend, she's going to make these. She has the will. She has it in her mind she will make those shots."
After a timeout, Walker went to the free-throw line while all of her teammates pulled out to half court. Walker rattled home the first shot and, after another timeout, sank the second to provide Susquehannock with a 44-42 victory and the program's first district championship. The players celebrated, some dropping to their knees and screaming and others jumping in the air.
Despite her teammates' confidence in her, Walker fought back nerves.
"I have to make (the free throws) because we worked so hard," Walker said. "I have to do it for my coach, my teammates, everyone that helped throughout the season. ... I just pictured myself making it, because we shoot so many free throws in practice I just pictured it like practice."
Walker's free throws capped Susquehannock's spirited fourth-quarter comeback, erasing a six-point deficit.
"There's no words to describe how amazing it is to just be able come out and be the first in our school and community to do this," Williams said. "It's a huge community thing, and I couldn't be more proud of the team for what we did."
The guards led the early fourth-quarter charge, with Jayla Galbreath knocking down a 3-pointer from the wing. Taylor Tannura, one of the smallest players on the floor, drove to the hoop to sink another bucket.
But Susquehannock has been known for its offensive balance all season, and that's what happened in the final frame as four different players scored.
It helped, though, that they had Walker. She drove from the wing to the hoop to rattle down a layup with 2:45 to play.
"I saw the opening, because they cut off baseline for quite awhile when my (outside) shot wasn't falling," Walker said.
She knocked down a 3-pointer in the third, however, and Harrisburg's defenders crept out on her late in the game. Walker noticed and took the ball to the rim. It marked Susquehannock's first lead of the second half.
"It's definitely challenging and scary going in, you don't want to get swatted in front of everyone, but we kept doing it," Susquehannock junior Anna Mahan said. "And Jaden, she's one of the girls that can drive the best, I just love watching her with her long reach. It's great that she kept doing what she was doing."
Harrisburg had taken control of the game in the third quarter, building its biggest lead with a 6-0 run to go ahead by eight.
"I knew we were still in the game and going to win it," Tannura said.
Harrisburg lived inside the arc in the third quarter, knocking down six interior shots and pulling down five offensive rebounds to keep earning offensive chances. Susquehannock, meanwhile, was limited to almost strictly long-range, low-percentage shots, in the third quarter. It did not score a bucket inside the arc until Galbreath sank free throws in the final minute of the third.
All that changed in the fourth, with Susquehannock driving to the hoop at the offensive end and the Warriors limiting Harrisburg’s offensive rebounds.
Susquehannock held Harrisburg to four points through the final 6:22 of the game, finishing off its first district title with a 12-4 run.
Tannura scored a team-high 13 points, Walker added 12, Galbreath netted eight and Williams scored six. Harrisburg’s Dajahnae Brannon scored a game-high 19 points, and Ahmyah Woodyard added 12 points.
After all the pictures had been taken and players exited the locker room, Williams still cradled the District 3 trophy.
"I don't think you're ever going to put that down," Mahan joked.
Williams quipped: "Coach said I can take it home with me."
Sisler 0 0-0 0, Taylor Tannura 4 4-6 13, Jaden Walker 3 5-6 12, Galbreath 2 2-2 8, Williams 2 2-2 6, Mahan 1 0-2 2, Stone 1 0-0 3. Totals: 13 13-18 44.
Merritt 0 1-2 1, McCollough 1 1-4 4, Ahmyah Woodyard 4 2-2 12, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Wright 3 0-0 6, Walker-Cowan 0 0-0 0, Dajahnae Brannon 8 1-2 19. Totals: 16 5-10 42.
3-point goals: Harrisburg 5 (Woodyard 2, Brannono 2, McCollough); Susquehannock 5 (Galbreath 2, Stone, Tannura, Walker).