Opponents know all too well what to expect when they play Harrisburg.
The Cougars swarm on defense and to the glass with tenacity.
They attack the rim on offense and the opponents’ ball handlers everywhere on the court.
They impose their will with intensity and they make opponents play the game their way.
When opponents fail to measure up the Cougars’ challenge, then they get the result that Hempfield got on Saturday afternoon at Hershey’s Giant Center in the PIAA District 3 6A Boys championship game.
Harrisburg 67, Hempfield 40.
The Cougars won their 12th big-school district championship since the school was opened in 1971 after the merger of William Penn and John Harris high schools.
It’s always been this way when the Cougars get a chance to showcase their game on the big stage.
They hone their game in the toughest conference in District 3—the Mid-Penn Commonwealth.
Senior Chris Whitaker scored six of his game-high 25 points in the first seven minutes as Harrisburg raced to a 16-5 lead and kept its foot on the pedal the rest of the game.
Whitaker had 13 points in the third quarter as the Cougars’ 31-9 halftime lead grew to 48-25 after three.
Penn State football commit and muscle man Micah Parsons had 14 points that included two dunks (see Photo Gallery).
David Martin-Robinson led Hempfield with 15 points, earning every one of them.
Almost always dominant on its District 3 home turf, the challenge now for Harrisburg is to build on its district championship and go get a PIAA state championship. They did just that in 1998 and 2002 when they won 4A state titles.
Winning a state championship almost always requires that a team has senior leadership (Whitaker), depth (Harrisburg coach Kirk Smallwood uses a rotation of 10 players), more than a couple of players who are capable of scoring points (Whitaker, Tony James, Quintyn Flemister), the ability at every position to play defense and rebound (Micah Parsons, Damien Barber, Elijah Barrett, Zion Patterson) and always some good fortune.
And most importantly, a serious state title contender has to have that burning desire and focus to win.
After defeating Carlisle, Reading and Hempfield in the district tournament, the Cougars have just that look.
The Cougars open the state tournament next Saturday against the District 1 10th-place team Downingtown West.
The challenge for Hempfield, after its three impressive wins to reach the district championship game as a seven seed, is to regroup. The Black Knights face a very talent District 11 third-place team Allen in their state tournament opener.