As if we needed any more reason to begin paying attention to them, the players on the York College women's basketball team gave us one more on Sunday.
In the first round of the four-team holiday classic at Oglethorpe (Ga.) University, the Spartans won, 54-53, over the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, currently ranked No. 22 by d3hoops.com. It came in dramatic fashion, with York Catholic grad and Spartans' senior forward Brittany Hicks hitting a game-winning lay-up with six seconds left on the clock. York will next play Oglethorpe (3-8) on Monday.
Sunday's victory is York's third win this season over a team then-ranked in the Top 25. Sunday's win will likely help the undefeated Spartans (9-0) move up from its No. 19 spot in the d3hoops.com poll.
Not that we need any kind of poll to measure this team.
Motivated: When the season began, Coach Betsy Witman and some of her top players mentioned they're motivated this season by last year's stunning early exit in the Capital Athletic Conference semifinals, when the Spartans lost 55-49 to Mary Washington.
It was stunning in the fact York had won 20 games up to that point and brought back nearly all of the same players who had won a CAC title and reached the Sweet 16 in the 2011-12 season.
But even last year's group had its limitations. Starters Aja Wallpher, Kelsey Murphy, Kristen Haley and Brittany Hicks had to carry much of the workload, thanks to a young and limited bench.
Wallpher, Murphy, Haley and Hicks are back again this season, each in her fourth year as a starter. And the few players who came off the bench last season, such as point guard Julianne Lambert and forward Kailee Knight, are a year older and a bit more experienced.
Plus, Witman added talented transfers in York Catholic grad Karli McFatridge and junior forward Shea Wassel, who nearly averaged a double-double at D-III Gwynedd-Mercy last season. It's really hard to find a flaw in this team. And the numbers back it up.
Numbers: Heading into the weekend, York was at the top of the conference in just about every major category, including rebounding (48.4 a game), rebounding margin (11.8), assists (17 a game) and blocked shots (5.3 a game).
The Spartans were also holding opponents to 50.5 points game, the best mark in the CAC, while also making opponents shoot an abysmal 29.4 percent, the fourth-best defensive mark in all of Division III.
The top returners, multi-time all-conference selections Haley, Hicks and Wallpher, have lived up to the billing as well. Before Sunday, Wallpher was eighth in the country in assists per game (7.3), with Hicks' 10.1 rebounds a game tied for the second-best average in the CAC and her 46 made free-throws tops in the conference. Haley's 15.6 points-per-game average is sixth-best in the CAC.
Support: Unfortunately not much fan support has been there for this team so far this season.
Sure, the numbers will say York is leading the conference with an average of 418 fans in six home games, up from last year's 327 average, but down from the 502 average in 2011-12. But there's a lot of room left for fans among the 1,726 seats at the Charles Wolf Gymnasium.
York is on the road for its next four games before returning home Jan. 11 against Salisbury. It'll mark a stretch of four of five games coming at home in a two-week period in the month of January.
It's time fans start paying attention to a group that is good and has what it takes to be great in what could potentially be a magical season.
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.