Missing at high school sports during the pandemic is the frenzied crowd that rallies behind its partisan banners in a big game. But at Lancaster Catholic on March 9, the old feeling was there, as there were enough fans from the Columbia Crimson Tide and the Crusaders’ faithful to give the District 3 Class 3A championship the feel that much was at stake.
These two Lancaster County teams are not unfamiliar foes, and the evenly matched teams played a tense and taut game that makes District 3 championship basketball a special experience.
The Crimson Tide jumped out to an eight-point lead in the first half, mainly on some deadly three-point shooting despite an aggressive and stretched out Crusaders’ defense. Columbia is a tough, gritty team, but what makes the extremely well-coached Crusaders champions is their resilience, determination and ability to meet any challenge any team throws at them.
By halftime, the Crusaders had chipped away at the lead and were down just 32-28. If basketball is a game of adjustments and runs, Lancaster Catholic did just that in the third quarter, as they picked up the defensive pressure, pounded the boards and held the Tide to only one field goal in the third quarter.
While it was truly a team effort, the Crusaders’ leader is Devin Atkinson, who finished with 17 points, many hard-earned physical put-backs, and 18 rebounds which led to the Tide’s demise. The Tide was one and done all night.
Up eight points with 119 seconds left in the game, The Crusaders looked like a lock to win their second District 3 title in a row. But Columbia hit a three-bomb and when Lancaster Catholic missed two-front ends of 1 and 1’s, suddenly Columbia was one look away from tying the score. In big games, experience matters and the home partisan crowd did not hurt either. Lancaster Catholic got the hard-earned W to advance to the PIAA state tournament, where last year they were denied a great run at a state title because of Covid cancelling the tournament half way through.
“It was so unfair,” a sweat-soaked Devin Atkinson said afterwards about last season. “We were on a roll. To get cheated out like that… well we want to finish things, now.”
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness