District 3 Girls Basketball: Patient Gettysburg hands No. 1 Mechanicsburg heartbreaking 5A semifinals loss

The Mechanicsburg girls team knew Wednesday night’s District 3 Class 5A semifinal matchup with Gettysburg wasn’t going to be easy.

At this time of year, very few games are.

But the top-seeded Wildcats had gone toe-to-toe for 20 minutes and held a 24-22 lead midway through the third quarter.

Gettysburg’s 1,000-point scorer Anne Bair brought the ball up the court, hesitated, and drove towards the basket drawing contact from her defender. Bair made both free throws to even the score, but the real damage was collaring Talia Gilliard-Jackson with her fourth foul with 3:33 left in the period.

If Mechanicsburg was going to stay in the game, it would be without its floor general and all-time leading scorer, who had to take a seat. Starter Jayden Eager soon joined her on the bench with her fourth foul as well.

Despite that, the Wildcats scored the last five points of the quarter. On the first possession after the break, they pushed their advantage to 32-24 as Gracen Nutt nailed a 3-pointer from the corner.

But it was the last points Mechanicsburg would put up on the scoreboard over the final 7:27 of the game as sharpshooter Skye Shepherd ignited Gettysburg in its 41-32 victory ending the Wildcats’ season.

“The issue was they made multiple 3’s in spots where they needed to make them,” Mechanicsburg head coach Clay McAllister said. “If they miss, we rebound and run out, and the game is different. But that’s not the way it happened.”

No. 5 Gettysburg (19-2) advances to the 5A championship game Friday evening to face No. 2 Spring Grove, 73-48 victors over Lower Dauphin.

The Warriors stuck with the game plan to run their deliberate, methodical and patient offense regardless of the score. Even as Mechanicsburg raced out to the 8-0 lead off the opening tip, Gettysburg slowed the pace down and chipped away at the advantage until it held the ball for large swaths of time, content to go into halftime ahead 19-16.

Mechanicsburg (17-4) keyed defensively on Bair, holding the Division I Manhattan University commit to one first-half bucket. Still, Shepherd and Camryn Felix picked up the scoring slack for the Warriors in the early going.

Shepherd once again pulled her team out of its deficit in the fourth quarter’s opening minutes. The junior, who averaged 6.6 points per game entering the night, drilled three 3-pointers to finish with a game-high 15 points. Bair went 4-of-5 from the foul line with a bucket to ice the victory for Gettysburg.

Gilliard-Jackson, who will play next season at the University of California (Pa.), led Mechanicsburg with 11 points, while Nutt added nine and Emma Castilla finished with eight. The Wildcats were vying for their first-ever District 3 championship appearance.

“They won back-to-back division championships,” McAllister said. “They played through the state championships last year and didn’t get beat. I can’t say enough about the kids. I’m super proud, and I love them all.”