MECHANICSBURG - Players stood silently while looking stunned. Some shed tears and others looked angry. Fans patted those Loyalsock players on the back, but it was little consolation.
A team that expected to capture a state championship against the odds felt like it was reliving a nightmare.
Loyalsock overcame a 10-point halftime deficit only to watch Darius Wallace hit a game-winning 3-pointer with 19 seconds remaining Wednesday as Delaware Valley Charter won a PIAA Class AA second round thriller, 46-45, on Wednesday night.
It was an eerily similar finish to last year when Loyalsock lost in overtime to Trinity after a buzzer-beater forced overtime.
"We knew we could play with them. We came out slow but we just tried to get back in it," said Loyalsock's Ben Sosa who recorded a second straight state tournament double-double. "I thought we were going to win it, but we just came up short. It's tough, but it happens."
Loyalsock finished 25-4, winning 25 games for a second straight season. It also won a state tournament game for a second straight year, something no other Lancer team had done in the 21st century.
But that does little for a fiercely competitive team that had no starter taller than 6-foot-2. The Lancers thought they would be moving on to Saturday's quarterfinals and not doing so hurts bad. The Warriors (20-7) will play Wilkes-Barre Meyers in Saturday's quarterfinals while Loyalsock wonders what if?
"We still believe in these kids and have all the faith in the world in them. They're probably the smallest team in the whole tournament as far as size is concerned, but they just play tough," Loyalsock coach Ron Insinger said. "We're proud of that (record) but we also know we have the capability of going to the next level and the next level."
Loyalsock showed why in the second half, shutting out Del Val in the third quarter and using an 11-0 run to take a 36-35 lead into the fourth, its first of the game. It was a remarkable turn of events after the Warriors had scored at will at times in the first half.
The Lancers methodically worked the offense, played outstanding defense and held Del Val without a point until 40 seconds into the fourth quarter. Mike Pastore and Omar Little twice gave Loyalsock three-point fourth-quarter leads but the Warriors fought off the ropes and showed they are resilient, too.
The lead changed hands five times in the fourth quarter with Sosa's putback putting the Lancers ahead 42-41. Kyle Datres (8 rebounds, 6 assists) hit both ends of a 1-and-1 with 1:45 remaining to give Loyalsock a 44-43 lead and Little (14 points) hit a foul shot with 38 seconds left, extending it to 45-43.
Del Val patiently worked for a shot on the ensuing possession but Loyalsock defended well as it did throughout the second half. Wallace caught a pass on the left wing and had two defenders in his face. Still, he showed no fear and swished the go-ahead basket. The Warriors had not made a 3-pointer since the first quarter but this one saved their season.
"They were in his face but he just made a great shot," Sosa said. "We brought it together and focused up at halftime. We came out well, it just wasn't good enough."
Loyalsock had a shot to take the lead but a 3-point attempt was long with eight seconds left. The Lancers had fouled just three times in the second half at that point so they were in a dire situation. By the time they forced Del Val to the line for a 1-and-1 only 0.9 seconds remained.
CJ Wolfe missed the foul shot but Dashon Giddings (11 points, 10 rebounds) grabbed the rebound and clinched the win.
"It's tough to swallow because we were so close," Insinger said. "I told them there's two kinds of pain. One pain that hurts and the other that creates growth and hopefully the kids will bounce back and grow after this and get better and stronger and more fundamentally sound for next season."
While many might focus on the final minutes, the game's key sequence might have happened in the second-quarter's final minute. Loyalsock had trimmed an 8-point deficit to three but in just 55 seconds, Del Val scored seven points and took a 35-25 halftime lead.
It could have been a devastating blow but Loyalsock regrouped and dominated the third quarter while taking over the paint. Little hit all three of his shots and Sosa was a force inside en route to scoring 10 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Pastore added 13 points and seven rebounds while symbolizing the team's relentless play by sliding across the floor after loose balls.
Giddings gave Loyalsock trouble in the first half but the Lancers held him scoreless in the second half while allowing just 11 points. It was another positive in a season full of them, but Loyalsock remains unsatisfied.
All five starters return next season and the Lancers already are focused on making a bigger impact.
"We should be expecting to do more next year," Sosa said. "The season starts (today) so we're going to get in and get working and get ready for next year."
DELVAL CHARTER (46)
Dashon Giddings 3 4-4 11, Shahid Adams 4 0-0 9, CJ Wolfe 1 0-1 2, Karl Lewis 0 0-4 0, Darius Wallace 4 0-0 10, Bysil Northern 3 0-0 6, Dwine Walls 4 0-1 8. Totals: 19 4-10 46.
Omar Little 6 2-5 14, Kyle Datres 1 3-4 5, Ben Sosa 5 0-0 10, Mike Pastore 5 2-4 13, Tommy Baggett 1 0-0 3, Brennan Casale 0 0-0 0, Luke Glavin 0 0-0 0, Wes Lapoint 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 7-13 45.
Delval16 19 0 11--46
Loyalsock14 11 11 9--45
3-pointers: Delval 3 (Giddings, Adams, Wallace); Loyalsock 2 (Pastore, Baggett).
Records: DVC 19-7. Loyalsock 25-4.