HERSHEY - Nothing was going right for Lancaster Country Day during the first half of Wednesday’s District 3 Class 1A boys championship game at the Giant Center.

But that changed emphatically for the Cougars.

Down eight at the break, Lancaster Country Day doubled up Halifax in the final 16 minutes and went on to capture the school’s first district title with a 51-43 victory.

“I have been with this group of guys since fifth grade and this is what we’ve been talking about, turning this program around” guard Andrew Williams said. “Being able to do something that no other team in school history has done feels amazing.”

The Cougars’ loss in the 2018 district final is now a distant memory.

“We’ve been together, we hustle together and ending it on this note is really special and something we wanted to get done,” fellow senior Luke Walling said.

Williams scored 12 of his game-high 14 points in the second half. He added eight rebounds, five steals and four assists, but his contributions were far from unique for the Cougars (19-4).

Bradley Fry scored 11 points, many of which helped Country Day stay in the game during a rough first half.

Sophomore Lance Lennon had 10 points and nine rebounds, nearly all in the second half and freshman John Stewart was huge off the bench.

Walling played terrific defense on Halifax standout Nathan Blasick, adding some big shot blocks, and clutch passes. Still, Walling was quick to say that the Cougars would not have won without the contributions from everyone.

“They provide so much energy and know what needs to get done,” he said of his teammates. “Everyone on the team understands their role and that’s super important for a team.”

First-year coach Jon Shultz said it didn’t take long for him to realize the Cougars had their sights set on district gold.

“Meeting these kids, that was the first thing they talked about was they wanted to get back here,” he said. “There were doubts along the way, but the resolve was good.”

That resolve was tested after a first half in which Lancaster Country Day committed 12 turnovers and missed a plethora of shots.

The Cougars led 13-11 on a sweet jumper from reserve Greg Mizii. But the Wildcats answered with a seven-point run, started by a turnaround jumper from London Johnson, who also buried a 3-pointer to close the first half with the Wildcats ahead 27-19.

“We knew what was happening there. We were tight. We were emotional,” Shultz said. “It could have been a lot worse as we were not taking care of the basketball at all. At halftime, it was just have some fun. Get out there, relax and do the things you guys can do.”

The second half was a different story.

Lancaster Country Day outscored Halifax 14-2 in the third quarter, tying the game at 29 on a pair of Walling free throws with 2:39 left in the period.

With a minute left in the quarter, Walling hit Stewart for a layup, then Stewart passed to Fry for another basket and a 33-29 Cougars lead.

Blasik’s three-point play made it a one-point game early in the fourth, but the Country Day response was impressive as Walling, Will Lisk and Williams made it 39-32.

A short while later, Williams took over driving for baskets on consecutive possession.

Tyler Berzowski’s 3-pointer cut the deficit to 45-43 with 1:20 left. However, Williams dropped a pair of free throws, Lennon blocked a shot and grabbed the rebound. Two more Williams free throws and a district title was in the Cougars’ sights.

Lennon put the game away at the line, and the celebration began on the Giant Center floor as retribution for the 2018 final loss to York Country Day was served.

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