The York College men's basketball team has been through its fair share of losses this season.
No matter the outcome, though, first-year head coach Matt Hunter has been emphasizing the Spartans' improvement in preparation for Capital Athletic Conference play.
That's what makes Wednesday night's 61-58 CAC loss to visiting Salisbury even tougher to take, especially after the Spartans surrendered a six-point lead in the final minutes and missed a chance to tie it in the final seconds.
The Spartans, who dropped to 5-9 overall and 1-2 in the CAC, appeared to do nearly everything right against a talented Salisbury club (11-4 overall, 2-0 CAC).
"We came in with a defined game plan," Hunter said. "We executed it tremendously well. Everything but the final score was there."
The York College women also had a frustrating night, losing 66-53 to Salisbury in the early game at the Charles Wolf Gymnasium inside the Grumbacher Center.
Men: With 10 of their final 12 games coming against CAC foes, York used the momentum from Saturday's 73-55 non-conference victory over Misericordia on Wednesday, going up 11-2 in the opening moments.
The Seagulls eventually took the lead just before halftime and led 28-25 at intermission. Still, the Spartans later appeared to be within reach of a victory when they went up 54-48 with 3:52 left on a lay-up and ensuing free-throw from junior guard Mike Mathews (team-high 15 points).
But the Seagulls quickly answered with a 3-pointer from shooting guard Travon Vann, followed by a pair of free throws from point guard Tim Harwood (11 points) that brought Salisbury within 54-53 with three minutes to play.
York later found itself up one, 58-57, when Todd Maciejewski was stripped by Vann, who went the length of the court for a fastbreak layup to put Salisbury up 59-58 with 35 seconds left. It marked the seventh lead change of the game. Vann, who entered averaging 20 points a game, finished with a game-high 22 points.
"You make your own breaks," Hunter said. "We turned it over up one with a minute left and didn't get a shot coming out of a timeout. We had our chances. We had plenty of chances at the rim in the last 20 seconds."
Last chance: Down 60-58 with 6.5 seconds left, York had a chance to tie the game on an inbounds play under its own basket. Spartans' point guard Julian Watson (10 points) dished it in to Maciejewski near the basket. Surrounded by a double-team, Maciejewski passed the ball outside to Jeremy Skoloda, who was forced into a 3-point attempt with time winding down. The shot went wide right.
Although the Spartans made just 3-of-11 3-point attempts (27.3 percent), York did hit 22-of-49 shots from the floor (44.9 percent). Salisbury shot 42.6 percent from the floor (20-of-47) and 30.4 percent from beyond the arc (7-of-23). York is now 1-5 in games decided by single digits this season.
"There's no such thing as a moral victory. We did a lot right," Hunter said. "Our defensive game-plan execution was tremendous. Travon Vann is just really good."
Women: The Spartan women suffered their third-straight defeat and its worst loss of the season vs. Salisbury (7-6, 1-1).
Playing its sixth game in 12 days, York (11-3, 2-1) shot just 32.2 percent from the floor (19-of-59), 10 percent from 3-point range (2-of-20) and 54.2 percent from the free-throw line (13-of-24).
York, which is ranked No. 18 by d3hoops.com and No. 19 in the NCAA USA Today Coaches' poll, had little threat from the perimeter. Three-point specialists Loreta Tonuzi and Kelsey Murphy combined to shoot 1-for-11 from beyond the arc. Tonuzi saw just seven minutes of action, all in the first half, because of an injured foot.
Meanwhile, forward Kristen Haley (eight points, 13 rebounds) had trouble finding a good shot down low. And the Salisbury defense did a nice job containing York's leading scorer, Brittany Hicks, who scored six of her team-high 15 points in the final 1:04.
Next game: Both York teams will next face CAC foe Marymount in a double-header set for Saturday beginning at 1 p.m.
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.