Harrisburg teams hope to bring basketball back with state title runs

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – 1.9 seconds were the difference between the Harrisburg’s boys and girls basketball teams from each celebrating district title wins last Saturday. Instead, they’ll settle for bringing state championship trophies back to Harrisburg.

“We have an opportunity to win a state championship so we’re focusing on that now,” says girls head coach Dwan Lee, whose Lady Cougars lost to Susquehannock in the 5A District 3 championship after a foul was called with 1.9 seconds left. The ensuing free throws made were the difference in the 44-42 loss.

Two hours after the tough loss, the girls team watched the boys win the 6A district title, routing Hempfield. With dramatic wins over Carlisle and perennial powerhouse Reading en route to the unexpected championship, Kirk Smallwood’s team has proven to be athletic and talented. He wants them to be something much more specific: basketball players.

“So we get a well rounded kid. A kid that may not be as skilled as a basketball player. That’s where we come in.”

Case in point: both Micah Parsons and Damion Barber, best known for leading Harrisburg to a football state title game this past fall, have become important keys in the Cougars success on the court. Chris Whitaker, the team’s captain, hopes with their help they’ll be able to secure just the third state championship in program history.

“Growing up I always used to hear about the two state title teams and I have family members on both state title teams and you know, seeing the gold. Seeing everything that comes with it, I live for that.”

Regardless of the outcome once states are done, both program’s success has reinvigorated a community that for decades has identified Harrisburg athletics with basketball success. As Whitaker puts it, “To bring that back to my city is tremendous.”

Both teams play Saturday in their respective opening round games. The Lady Cougars play West Chester Rustin at 6 PM while the boys play Downingtown West as a part of a double-header at East Pennsboro High School. The first game is at 6 PM.

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