Penn State York men's basketball continues dominant season, doubles up Central Penn

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

A lot of athletic teams use the cliché that they are like a family. In the case of the Penn State York men’s basketball team, that’s one big family.

With a roster of 15 players, the Nittany Lions are certainly not lacking for depth. What has made the program so special over the past decade-plus is that depth is nearly matched by its quality.

Both depth and quality were on display Monday night as the local Lions hosted Central Penn at the RUHL Center. Coach Matt Rotonda was able to shuffle new players on the floor throughout the clash with a Knights side that only brought eight players over from Lancaster County.

PSY got off to a quick start thanks to the hot shooting of senior John John Gillespie, who scored his team’s first 11 points. York quickly built a double-digit lead that never would be seriously threatened as the Lions cruised to an impressive 89-43 victory.

Penn State York’s John John Gillespie takes the ball to the basket during men’s basketball action against Central Penn in the Joe and Rosie Ruhl Student Community Center at Penn State York in Spring Garden Township, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. Dawn J. Sagert photo

“John John has been great all year for us,” Rotonda said of his senior, who tied for a team-high in points with 15. “He’s really worked on being more efficient and tighter with the basketball so he’s been coming through as a senior.”

York’s big lead throughout limited the minutes Monday for Gillespie, who, along with New Oxford grad Deriq Brown, averages just over 30 minutes a game. Gillespie played just 23 minutes against the Knights as five different PSY players reached double figures in scoring.

Gillespie and Brown have been a big 1-2 combo throughout the season for the Lions, who improved to 15-2 overall with the triumph. Both players reached the 1,000-point milestone this season, with Gillespie hitting it in the game before Brown achieved his feat.

“We both knew that we were pretty close,” said Gillespie, who added five rebounds, three assists and three steals. “We were trying not to get it in the same game so we wouldn’t take away from each other’s celebration and it just happened to work out that way.”

Penn State York’s Deriq Brown lines up his shot during men’s basketball action against Central Penn in the Joe and Rosie Ruhl Student Community Center at Penn State York in Spring Garden Township, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. Dawn J. Sagert photo

A graduate of Lancaster Mennonite High School, Gillespie enjoyed facing a Knights squad loaded with former rivals from his playing days in the Lancaster-Lebanon League.

“They had a bunch of guys from my hometown Lancaster,” Gillespie said. “So there was a lot of energy out there on the court tonight and I was feeling it kind of early.”

Gillespie drained three straight 3-pointers before adding a layup to fuel a 17-0 run over the first seven-plus minutes of the contest. The big advantage gave Rotonda the chance to use his bench liberally, as all but three players found the scoresheet Monday.

“That’s our strength,” Rotonda said. “It’s just the numbers and not just depth, but the quality of our players. We have a mix of veterans at every spot and young guys that can step in. Every day in practice is competitive and it’s a good group.”

It’s a group that Gillespie is proud to be a part of, and not just because of all the success the team has had during his career.

“We play with a lot of heart,” he said. “And we all hang out with each other. It’s more of a brotherhood than a team and I think that’s what separates us from other teams.”

And Rotonda is happy to point out that his program has been a success both on and off the court.

“The maturity level of this team is high,” Rotonda said. “And that shows in their performance in the classroom in the first semester. They were all really locked in and it was the best academic semester we’ve ever had. Our GPA as a team was well over 3.0 and we heard many compliments from our professors about how responsible and how communicative and proactive our guys were in the classroom.

"So, they have a nice reputation around campus when you’re dealing with college-age players and it’s nice to know that they take that part of their experience here at Penn State York seriously, because that’s what they’re here for."

Connor Hostetter matched Gillespie with 15 points, while York Catholic grad D’Andre Davis finished with 14. Both Brown and York High grad Marquise McClean added 11 apiece. Penn State York’s only two losses this season came at the hands of bigger schools — NCAA Division I UMBC (92-65) and Division II Millersville (68-56).

Penn State York’s Jayla Brown, left, looks to throw the ball while Central Penn’s Cayla Thomas defends during women’s basketball action in the Joe and Rosie Ruhl Student Community Center at Penn State York in Spring Garden Township, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. Central Penn would win the game 52-49. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Women’s game — Central Penn 52, Penn State York 49: The Lady Knights jumped out to an 8-0 lead early and had to fend off a late run by a short-handed PSY squad to capture the victory.

York used a 19-4 run that spanned the second and third periods to gain a 29-25 advantage midway through the third. Tied at 44-44 with under three minutes remaining, the Central Penn women finished on an 8-5 run to earn the triumph.

Desii Garcia-Hernandez led Penn State York (7-7) with 19 points, while New Oxford grad Jayla Brown finished with 12 in the setback.

“The team is working extremely hard and has a wonderful chemistry,” head coach Tory Harvey said. “They may only be a team of six, but they are not deterred and are committed to representing Penn State York with 100 percent effort, energy, enthusiasm and execution. I’m incredibly proud to be their coach.”