Change is a part of life.

You can either embrace it, or you can fight it, but you can't prevent it.

Two of the best high school boys' basketball players that York County has produced in recent years have learned that lesson.

They now find themselves on the biggest stage that college basketball has to offer.

Central York High School graduate Tre Bowman and York Catholic High School graduate Jacob Iati will get the rare opportunity to compete in March Madness over the next few days -- and both will be key members of their respective teams.

They are two distinctly different stories with one remarkably consistent theme -- change.

Bowman: Bowman was a standout at Central York, pouring in 21.6 points per game as a senior.

Bowman
Bowman

After leaving the Panthers, the 6-foot, 5-inch guard attended St. Thomas More, a prep school in Connecticut, in an effort to improve his skills and his studies.

His considerable talents soon attracted the attention of then-Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis, who offered him a scholarship. Bowman saw limited action during his freshman season at PSU, but he was part of the 2010-2011 team that made the NCAA Division I Tournament.

After some off-court issues in Happy Valley, Bowman opted to leave Penn State and transferred Midland Junior College in Texas for the 2011-2012 season. After a successful season there, he was all set to stay in Texas and play for Division I Texas Southern for the 2012-2013 season. But then that school's head coach unexpectedly resigned.

Bowman reconsidered his decision and ultimately landed at Iona in New York, where Bowman seems to have found himself a home.

With the Gaels, he has played in 31 games during his junior season, including 16 starts. He's averaging 8.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Most notably, however, he poured in 20 clutch points off the bench in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title game vs. Manhattan, powering the Gaels to a 60-57 victory. He finished that game a sizzling 7-for-9 from the field.

Iati
Iati

It put Iona (20-13) into the Big Dance, where the No. 15 seed Gaels will face No. 2 seed Ohio State (26-7) at 7:15 p.m. Friday in Dayton, Ohio, in a West Regional second-round battle.

Iati: Iati, meanwhile, left York Catholic as the leading scorer in York-Adams League history with 2,388 points.

The 5-10 guard took his deft shooting touch to High Point in North Carolina, but saw little action as a freshman. He soon decided to transfer to Albany (N.Y.), where his older brother, Jon, had enjoyed a successful career.

After sitting out a season, Jacob saw relatively little playing time as a sophomore, averaging just 2.0 points per game.

Things didn't get much better during the first half of his junior season. He was again a bench player. In fact, he had pretty much given up on his playing career and was prepared to relinquish his final year of college playing eligibility in order to accept a graduate assistant's job at Albany.

But an injury to another player provided him with some unexpected playing time and he took full advantage of it. By the end of his junior season he had suddenly become a legitimate scoring threat, posting several games of 20 or more points. He finished the year averaging 5.2 points per game.

At that point, Iati decided to return to Albany as a player in 2012-2013. It turned out to be a very wise decision. He's averaging 12.1 points per game this season, second-best on the team. He hit two pivotal 3-pointers late in Iona's 53-49 victory over Vermont in the America East championship game on Saturday. That victory put the Great Danes in the NCAA tournament.

Jacob Iati won't be the only member of his family enjoying the experience. Jon Iati is an assistant coach in his first year with the Danes.

Albany, like Iona, faces a tall task in its NCAA opener. The No. 15 seed Danes (24-10) will battle No. 2 seed Duke (27-5) in a second-round Midwest Regional battle at 12:15 p.m. Friday in Philadelphia.

But even if Iona and Albany lose on Friday -- as most expect -- both Bowman and Iati will be able to reflect on seasons of unexpected success.

For Iati, it will be the culmination of a college career that almost ended prematurely.

For Bowman, it will mark a pivot point on a college journey that is still not over.

Both men started out in Pennsylvania and took detours through other states before ultimately finding new homes in New York.

It hasn't always been easy. In fact, it's been downright difficult at times.

They have learned that change can't be stopped, so you must learn to adapt if you want to succeed. And they have succeeded.

Friday, their hard work and perseverance will be rewarded with an opportunity to shine in college basketball's biggest show -- March Madness.

And York County will be watching.

-- Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@york dispatch.com.

Go here for a story on former York-Adams standouts in the NCAA women's tournament.