Somehow, it seemed inevitable, didn’t it?
When Chambersburg edged Harrisburg 55-54 three weeks ago to complete a satisfying and rare sweep of the Cougars in boys basketball, a quick look at the District 3 power rankings gave you the distinct feeling the odds were good these teams could meet again in the playoffs.
And here we are already, with No. 6 seed Harrisburg (16-7) at CASHS Field House against No. 3 Chambersburg (17-4) on Friday at 7 p.m. in a District 3 Class 6A quarterfinal game.
Friday’s winner will advance to a Tuesday semifinal at 7 p.m. at Giant Center in Hershey against the winner of No. 2 Hempfield (21-3) vs. No. 7 Wilson (16-7). The loser will play Tuesday vs. the Hempfield-Wilson loser at 5 p.m. at Milton Hershey in a consolation game. The top six placewinners advance to states, so one win from this point on will achieve that goal.
“There is a familiarity playing Harrisburg, which I think is on the pro side of things,” Trojan coach Shawn Shreffler said. “Of course, they have that same advantage.
“Usually when you go into districts, you feel that playing the teams in your league has prepared you, so you want to play somebody from another league.”
However, this will be the third consecutive year the Trojans have met a Mid Penn Commonwealth foe in their first playoff game. They are hoping a two-year losing skid — both vs. CD East — will be reversed.
In both games against the Cougars this season, Chambersburg has been able to take healthy leads, then had to hold off their opponent in the late going. That resulted in 63-61 and 55-54 victories.
Harrisburg has one clear star, forward Tony James (35 points in two games vs. the Trojans), but also has a phalanx of pesky guards that make its full-court press very effective, especially when the opposing guards get worn down in the fourth period.
Shreffler said, “We need to continue to be poised and strong with the basketball against their press. At times, we’ve had that poise and had great decision making with the ball.
“Even when we do turn the ball over — and that’s going to happen — we have to make it a dead ball situation, not a live ball situation. If we can keep them from getting in transition, it makes it harder for them if they have to attack our defense.”
In the first game, Chambersburg’s Joel Torres was a monster inside, going for 34 points. He was held to 8 in the second game, thanks to a combination of getting in foul trouble and the Cougars adding a wide-bodied Tyhier Butler to a swarming defense in the paint.
In the two games, the Trojans have also gotten 22 points total from Cade Brindle, 18 by Seth Brouse, 16 from Tyler Collier and 10 from Terell Williams.
One concern is that Chambersburg has not played a real game since Feb. 6. But the Trojans did scrimmage Northern York last week and St. James earlier this week to prepare.
Shreffler said, “The good thing is we’ve had a chance to heal up some minor dings, and get some rest after a long season. But you have to manage having that competitive edge and peak at the right time.”
One thing Shreffler isn’t worried about is his team finding itself in a new situation, especially if the game is another close one. The Trojans have played in 8 games, plus one overtime, that were decided by five or fewer points.
“We’ve had so many close games, and I think that helps with confidence,” Shreffler said. “We’ve been in a variety of situations.”
Notes: Trojan scoring averages — Torres 12.8, Brindle 9.1, Terell Williams 6.7, Collier 6.3, Brouse 6.3, Tyron Williams 5.8, Noah Beidel 2.9, Evan Shreffler 1.0.
Opinion: One key thing to watch is how tight the officials call the game, especially inside. In the second game, Torres was repeatedly bumped and banged, with multiple Cougars reaching in when he received the ball.