After an outstanding campaign last year that ended in the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament, it would be understandable for the York College men's basketball team's expectations to be lower.
The graduation of three All-Capital Athletic Conference standouts in Dalton Myers, Blayde Reich and Matt Scamuffo certainly left some pretty big shoes for this year’s Spartans squad to fill.
But head coach Matt Hunter, his three returning seniors and four juniors aren't viewing this season that way. Instead, the Spartans have their eyes set on continuing their recent trend of success.
That was clear Wednesday night at the Grumbacher Center as York hosted Gwynedd Mercy in a nonleague contest. Spurred on by a career night from senior Jason Bady, who scored 27 points, the Spartans cruised to an easy 85-62 win over the Griffins.
“I knew I was on pace (at halftime), but mainly I was concerned about us getting some stops in the second half,” Bady said after topping his previous career-high in points (22). “Once we got those stops, the offense came easy for everybody.”
Bady, Wagner lead the way: Despite the 23-point triumph, Bady was just one of two York (5-2) players — the other was Central York graduate Jared Wagner (10) — to reach double-figures in scoring, although six other Spartans scored at least five points apiece.
So far the key to York’s success this year has been simple — playing and believing as a team both offensively and defensively.
“We knew that we all could deliver,” Bady said. “Today you saw it especially in the second half. And in the second half against F&M (Sunday), we delivered. We had that competitive spirit where we said that we’re going to be tough, and we’re going to play defense and get stops.”
Living up to last year's success: While this year’s York team doesn’t quite have the size of last year’s team, which featured a pair of 6-foot, 7-inch forwards in Myers and Reich, Hunter believes his team this year can be just as successful as the one that finished 24-5 a year ago.
It all starts with the aspect that many coaches will saying is the key to winning championships — defense. That was definitely a key early in the second half as the Spartans stretched a six-point (42-36) advantage to 16 points (52-36) in a little less than five minutes.
“We chart on the bench kills, which (we define as) three stops in a row,” Hunter said. “And I don’t know how many we finished the game with, but we had a good chunk there in that first 10, 12 minutes of the second half.”
The Spartans' only two defeats so far this year came at the Richard Stockton Tournament a few weekends ago. A pair of five-point setbacks against the host team in the opener and Neumann in the consolation game remain as York's only blemishes.
High expectations: While outside observers may be surprised by York’s strong start to the season, especially considering those who have graduated, Bady is not one of them.
In fact, he's "kind of disappointed" by the team's start, mainly the two tournament losses.
“Honestly, I’m kind of disappointed,” he said. “We had a bad weekend where we lost two games back to back, and I think it was just because we didn’t have that competitive spirit that we knew we could deliver. But today you saw it.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org