Like they always have on the big stage of the PIAA District 3 boys basketball tournament, Harrisburg and Reading played their semifinal showdown on Tuesday night at Hershey’s Giant Center the only way these two heavyweights know how to.
Both threw haymaker after haymaker—no jabs with these two--and both got up off the canvas wobbly but still intact.
First it was Harrisburg.
After falling behind 10-2 in the opening minutes of the game, the Cougars reeled off a 20-4 blitz and led at halftime 32-21.
Then Reading countered.
The Red Knights rallied from 13-down midway through the third quarter to take a four-point lead with 1:26 remaining in the game.
But it was Harrisburg who closed when Chris Whitaker finished a drive to give the Cougars a 59-58 lead with 31 seconds remaining.
Whitaker, who scored 16 points, sent the Cougars to the District championship game Saturday afternoon when he made two free throws with 7.3 seconds left and Harrisburg went on to win 61-58.
Harrisburg plays Hempfield in the first-ever 6A district final. Hempfield knocked off Lebanon 53-40 in the first half of the boys doubleheader.
Harrisburg defeated Hempfield in the 1999 4A district championship game.
The Cougars were the dominate team during the 32 years of 4A basketball, winning 10 championships and reaching the final 12 times. They last won the championship in 2013.
Hempfield was 0-3 in 4A finals.
Miami-bound Lonnie Walker scored 19 hard-earned points for Reading. His two free throws with 58 seconds remaining gave the Red Knights a 58-57 lead.
Tyrone Nesby, whose fourth quarter seven-point flurry gave the Red Knights a 53-50 lead midway through the fourth quarter, scored 17 points.
Quintyn Flemister scored 14 points for Harrisburg. He made a clutch three-pointer that trimmed the Reading lead to 56-55 with 1:26 left in the game.
Hempfield has won three district playoff games against teams they faced during the regular season.
Hempfield’s Ryan Moffatt, with 29 points, and Tyler Hilton with 11 points, matched Lebanon’s 40.