When Bill Ackerman spotted Josh Bailey playing in West York's youth basketball league five years ago, Ackerman told Bailey that he was going to be the Bulldogs' varsity point guard some day.
It was a prophetic statement by West York's head varsity coach.
Today, Bailey is a sophomore point guard who plays with the poise of a senior.
The 5-foot, 8-inch Bailey scored 17 points, including five clutch free throws in the fourth quarter, to help the Bulldogs keep their unbeaten season alive with a tense 74-72 victory over York High.
West York improved its overall mark to 14-0 and York-Adams Division II record to 8-0. York High slipped to 8-5 overall and 3-4 in York-Adams Division I.
Bailey calmly knocked down two foul shots with 14.9 seconds to play, and then connected on one of two shots from the line with seven seconds remaining to give his team a four-point edge.
York High's D'montie Shaw scored the final basket of the game on a layup just before the buzzer.
"I could hear the crowd," Bailey said of the fans trying to distract him when he stood on the line in the closing seconds. "But, we work on foul shooting a lot in practice. Our depth really helped us win this game. It means a lot to come in here and win."
Depth helped, but so did a 19-of-26 (73.1 percent) performance at the foul line. York High, meanwhile, connected on just 15-of-30 foul shots (50 percent).
"My kids played with ungodly intensity, but it comes down to foul shooting," Bearcats' coach Troy Sowers said. "We shoot them at practice, and the sad thing is we make them at practice. It's very frustrating."
Bailey, by contrast, nailed 8-of-9 foul shots, including his first seven.
"Josh's dad and I are great friends," Sowers said. "I've known him since he was little. He ran the show and hit the clutch foul shots."
Bailey was one of three West York players to finish in double figures.
Nick Traettino came off the bench to knock in 17 points and Noah Cable supplied 10 points.
The Bulldogs won despite playing their third straight game without leading scorer Kevin Rice (14.8 points a game), who is sidelined with a wrist injury.
"Every game, there's a feel-good story," said Ackerman, who's been using an 11-player rotation this season. "I've had some great point guards, and when I say Josh Bailey is my point guard, it's a term of endearment. Nick (Traettino) did a great job for us tonight, and Ian (Lalic) played fantastic."
Lalic scored all six of his points in the third quarter and his conventional three-point play at the 24.6-second mark broke a 51 tie and gave his team the lead for good.
Following a missed York High foul shot, West York's Kyle Einsig launched the shot of the night when he beat the buzzer by banking one in from 64 feet.
"I drew that one up," Ackerman joked.
Einsig's answered prayer gave the Bulldogs a six-point lead heading into the final quarter.
The Bulldogs pushed the advantage to 10 points, but York High fought back and closed to within one (71-70) on Stephen Dickson's driving layup with 20 seconds remaining.
Bailey then delivered two foul shots, and after a Bearcats' turnover, Bailey made one of two from the line for West York's 74th point.
York High's Trey Shifflett led all scorers with 22 points. Dickson and Kristopher Johnson combined for 23 Bearcats' points.
Dick VanOlinda covers high school sports for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.