Losing seasons happen to every high school basketball program.
For some teams, they occur more often, and it can sometimes take years to recover.
For others, however, losing isn't an accepted option, so when a down year does occur, everyone takes notice.
So, it's safe to say nearly everyone around the York-Adams League, and perhaps even District 3, was aware that the York High boys' basketball team had one of its worst seasons in recent memory in 2016-17.
More than most programs, then, you can expect the Bearcats to use last season's disappointing performance as a motivational tool to make sure it's a one-time aberration and doesn't become a trend.
"Our record, 8-14," senior Kyree Generett said about what drove the team to work harder in the offseason. "I don't think we competed on the defensive end and this year we're planning on doing that."
Elite offense, bad defense: York High may have been one of the hardest teams to gauge last season for a myriad of reasons.
Offensively, the Bearcats had every reason to be better than their overall record. The 69.0 points per game that York High scored was the third most in the entire league, trailing only Northeastern (71.6 ppg) and York Catholic (70.1 ppg). Both of those teams won their respective divisions, while the Bearcats stumbled to a 6-8 mark in Division I and their first overall losing season since 2006-07, when they went 12-13.
The offense, obviously, wasn't the issue for York High last year. It was the other side of the ball.
What held back the Bearcats was their disinterest on defense, which did or didn't show up on a game-to-game basis.
"I went back and studied all the statistics from last year, looked at all the film from last year, and the most notable statistics are points given up per game and rebounds," second-year head coach Clovis Gallon said at media day. "When we rebounded well, we either put ourselves in position to win games, or we actually won the games. We averaged just under 70 points per game. When you're averaging just under 70 points per game, you should be winning those games."
Finding consistency: York High certainly had the talent last season to be a playoff team.
Looking back on the Bearcats' schedule, they had games against quality opponents that gave fans optimism. They opened the year with a one-point win over South Philadelphia at their own tip-off tournament, before losing to eventual PIAA Class 6-A state champ Reading by seven points.
Then there was an early-season win over Spring Grove, a state quarterfinalist, and a double-overtime road loss to Northeastern by two points. However, mixed in were losses to New Oxford and a 3-A school, Steel-High, along with games where defense was optional, most notably the 109-98 regulation win over South Western late in the season.
Gallon pins that inconsistency on the team being made up mostly of scorers, rather than having players who could play different roles.
This season's team will have more of that, which has Gallon expecting a more all-around squad.
"We typically have at least two guys on a York High team that are considered defensive stoppers. A guy in our lineup who we can put on the other team's best player and shut him down," he said. "Jeremiah (McCarter) kind of fulfilled that role for us, but other than that, we had a bunch of guys who were offensive-minded. This year, we have guys that can fulfill that role."
New leaders: York High graduated its top three scorers from a year ago in Jacquez Casiano (15.7 ppg), Jayden Iturmendi (11.7 ppg) and McCarter (9.2 ppg). However, the team's top two returning scorers, Generett and junior Marquise McClean, each averaged 8.8 points per game, which was better production than most team's fourth and fifth scoring options. They'll be joined by fellow juniors Clovis Gallon Jr. and Seth Bernstein, a transfer from Eastern York, and senior Jasere Drayden.
For the first time in a few years, it feels like the Bearcats are a team not built around a group of seniors. This is a squad with a core of underclassmen ready to build a foundation for the next couple years.
The talent to win and contend for titles will always be there at York High.
In order to make last season's losing campaign a blip on the radar, and not a theme, the Bearcats must address the mistakes from a year ago, which means making defense and rebounding a priority.
If that's the case, then York High will find itself back competing in league, district and state playoffs, which is the normal expectation around the city.
"We want to win the division," Generett said. "Then we want to win a county championship, district championship and compete for a state championship."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com