The Lancaster Catholic boys' basketball team has already reeled off two upsets in this year's District 3, Class AAA tournament. It surprised No. 2 Hershey in the quarterfinals last week, and demolished sixth-seeded Steel-High on Monday.

Thursday night, the seventh-seeded Crusaders will go for their biggest shocker yet, when they face undefeated Eastern York (27-0) in the district final.

It's hard to call a 22-4 basketball team an upstart -- but that's exactly the role Lancaster Catholic has assumed. What's more, Crusaders' head coach Joe Klazas said Wednesday his team seems to be enjoying it.

"When I looked at the field for AAA this year, I can't remember a AAA field being this strong in many years," Klazas said. "I think they've taken that underdog role pretty well. They like the fact that they can almost play a little pressure-free."

In the Crusaders, Eastern York will be facing a sound, fundamental team with plenty of experience. Forwards Ross hall and Tyler Purvis are both three-year varsity starters. Juniors Phillip Wenger and Paul Senkowski are two-year starters.

Knowing that, it's no wonder Lancaster Catholic has looked cool in both its district tournament victories.

"I think our experience has certainly helped us," Klazas said. "We're making good decisions at crucial times in games."

Klazas said the Crusaders will try to slow the pace against Eastern's explosive offense. Lancaster Catholic allowed an average of 44 points per game during the regular season.

"We've seen them a couple times," Klazas said. "They're an outstanding team. Very well coached. Great leadership on the floor. One of the biggest keys for us is just trying to control the pace of the game as much as possible. We're not a team trying to play with 70 or 80 points on the board.

"Our program has stressed the importance of defending. Our guys have done a good job on a continual basis of trying to value every possession defensively. They know that's crucial for us to win games."

Offensively, Lancaster Catholic is paced by Purvis, who averaged a team-high 14.1 points per game this season. But the Crusaders most vital asset is their balance -- their big scorer varies from night to night. On Monday, Senkowski scored 19 points and hit four 3-pointers in the third quarter.

"Offensively, I think our balance has been crucial for us this year," Klazas said. "Guys have been unselfish, and they know if somebody gets a hot hand, they work "


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