Athletic programs at Penn State York are often referred to as the "local Lions."
This year’s men’s basketball team makes that title even more fitting, utilizing a number of area standouts while trying to return the team to the top of the Penn State University Athletic Conference.
Penn State York (12-5 overall, 10-0 PSUAC) has won three straight games and currently sits atop the standings with seven games left in the regular season. Those seven games will come quickly, taking place over the next 15 days.
The local flavor of this team starts at the top, with former Red Lion boys’ basketball coach Parrish Petry. Now the head coach at Penn State York, Petry began his journey with the Lions nine years ago.
Since then, York has won three of the past four PSUAC titles, a run that included three straight championships from 2012-13 to 2014-15.
“Anytime you put a team together, you’re trying to put the right pieces together to cover all the right bases,” Petry said. “Whether you’re focusing on offensive rebounding, defensive rebounding, perimeter defense and then scoring, we have a little bit of everything there.”
Lots of locals: Petry currently presides over a roster that features six former York-Adams League players and 10 players total from District 3. It’s a solid mix that helps the coach cover all those bases.
Leading the way on the floor is another name familiar to Red Lion fans.
Sophomore Trent Thomas, a 2007 Red Lion grad, is having a spectacular season in helping push York to the top of the conference. His 21.8 points-per-game average is currently second in the PSUAC, behind Penn State Du Bois’ Tristan Pierce and his 23.1 average. He also pulls down 5.6 rebounds per game.
Thomas’s 37.8 percentage from beyond the arc ranks him ninth in the conference, and he’s also the PSUAC’s fifth-best free throw shooter at 78.6 percent.
Thomas, 28, is with his second collegiate program after first beginning his collegiate career at Clarion after graduation. This time, though, Thomas says he has a renewed focus on academics. He also credits familiarity with his coach as a reason for his success.
“He coached me at Red Lion, so I knew coming here I’d be under good watch with him. So that was definitely nice,” Thomas said.
“My biggest thing was staying in shape, that’s the key. There’s 20-year-olds that can run circles around guys my age. But the most important thing is to get the education. Classroom has got to come first. That wasn’t the primary thing for me the first time around. Things have changed now and I’m getting it done in the classroom too.”
York is currently the highest-scoring team in the conference at 89.8 points per game. PSY is also the hottest-shooting team from beyond the arc, converting 37.7 percent of the 3-point attempts.
Other York-Adams graduates playing for Petry include sophomore Richard Grant (Susquehannock), freshman Jonny Sutton (Dallastown), sophomore Ryan Beck (Dover), freshman Calvin Luckenbaugh (Central York) and junior Christian Buser (Eastern York).
Thomas, Grant and Sutton are all regular starters for the Lions. The addition of Beck, a Millersville transfer who came over during the recent break in semesters, is one Thomas feels will only make his job easier.
While Thomas provides the spark offensively, Grant and fellow starter Lucas Jewell (Elizabethtown High School), provide defensive grit.
Grant’s 1.2 blocks per game average has him ranked third in the conference. He's also averaging 13.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
Jewell averages 1.9 steals per game, fifth in the PSUAC. Jewell is also the conference leader in assists per game with a 7.6. He also averages 10.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
“Our leader is Lucas Jewell, he’s the head of the snake, as we say,” Thomas said. “We go as he goes. I can do the things I’ve been doing because of him.”
York also aids it offense by ranking second in the PSAUC in defensive rebounds per game at 29.9. York also ranks second in total rebounds per game with a 42.4 average.
'Monster Weekend' ahead: Friday starts a jam-packed, crucial weekend for the Lions. They first host Penn State Beaver at 8 p.m. before turning around and hosting PSUAC second-place squad Penn State Greater Allegheny at 3 p.m. Saturday.
However, Greater Allegheny will make the trip to York after having traveled to Penn State Mont Alto the night before.
A victory against Greater Allegheny can go a long way toward another title. It could give York a two-game cushion in the standings as the season winds down. Earning the league’s top seed would mean York would play host to conference’s final four come playoff time.
“We call it ‘Monster Weekend,’” Thomas said. “First things first though, Beaver is on our minds, not Greater Allegheny. That’s the biggest thing I can tell the younger guys is you don’t want to overlook an opponent like Beaver, because they can beat you just like that.”
Reach Elijah Armold at email@example.com.