York High sophomore Kristopher Johnson has used his 6-5 frame to become an inside force since being inserted into the Bearcats’ starting lineup at
York High sophomore Kristopher Johnson has used his 6-5 frame to become an inside force since being inserted into the Bearcats' starting lineup at midseason. (JOHN A. PAVONCELLO -- jpavoncello@yorkdispatch.com)

Telling a senior he had to sit while a sophomore took his place in the starting lineup is the kind of decision that would cause many coaches to lose sleep.

York High boys' basketball coach Troy Sowers, though, felt he had to make just such a change at the halfway point of the season.

Sowers made the senior, Stephen Dickson, the team's sixth man, and added the sophomore, Kristopher Johnson, to the starting lineup.

Dickson's reaction?

"It was kind of weird getting used to not starting, but coach told me that it was probably best for the team," he said during practice on Wednesday. "So, I took a step back and did whatever I could to help the team. Whether it was cheering my teammates on, (or) when coach calls for me to go in, scoring 10 points or giving out 10 assists."

Dickson's team-first attitude definitely contributed to the York High success story this season.

He could have pouted, complained about his playing time or even considered turning in his uniform. Instead, Dickson did whatever he could, on the bench or the floor, to help the Bearcats.

"Luckily, Stephen is the kind of kid he is," Sowers said. "I felt Stephen would give high energy off the bench. As a returning senior (in the starting lineup), I think he was trying to do too much."

In the first two games following the switch, Dickson delivered 12 assists and nine assists, respectively. Sowers also had him guard the other team's best player.

Meanwhile, Johnson became a key player as York High, which was 8-5 at one point this season, won 14 of its next 15 games, including its 11th District 3 championship. The 6-foot, 5-inch Johnson connected on the game-winning shot in the district final.

"Kris, I can talk about that young man all day," Dickson said. "At the beginning of the season, his defense wasn't up to par, but he worked on it and improved it a lot. His new role (starter), he stepped into it and played great."

Haverford next: Dickson, Johnson and the rest of the Bearcats will seek to continue their hot streak when they take on Haverford (16-11) in the first round of the State Class AAAA Tournament. The game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Dallastown High School. Haverford, the No. 10 seed from District 1 (suburban Philadelphia) owns a three-point victory this season over Lower Merion, a seven-time state champion. The Fords lost two games by a total of eight points to Conestoga, the No. 3-seeded team out of District 1.

Sowers said that Haverford wants the game in the 40s.

"They like to dribble drive and kick the ball back out," he said. "They're strong with the ball, and their possessions are many times 1 1/2 to two minutes."

The Bearcats will seek to speed up the game by forcing turnovers with full-court pressure and traps.

"We want to try and impose our style on them," Sowers said. "Basically, you're not going to change a whole lot now at this point of the season. Certainly, you have a scouting report on the other team, but you're going to do what you do best."

Tom Leibig, who averages more than 12 points a game, is the leading scorer for Haverford, which defeated Wissahickon, 47-37, to earn its place in states.

Jahaire Wilson (14.4) and Trey Shifflett (12.4) are York High's leading scorers. Shifflett has connected on 43 3-point shots, and Johnson has nailed 32 shots from behind the arc.

— Reach Dick VanOlinda at dvanolinda@yorkdispatch.com.