Late November is a time to be thankful.
The York College men’s basketball team is certainly enjoying the spirit of the holiday.
The Spartans can be thankful for some much-needed positive momentum heading into the Thanksgiving break.
York was able to get just that on Tuesday night, when coach Matt Hunter’s team played host to Messiah in a rivalry game between York County institutions. Despite gaining a 14-point advantage midway through the second half, the Spartans had to fend off a late rally by the Falcons down the stretch to earn a 73-69 overtime triumph.
York was able to make enough plays and enough shots in the crunch, led by a career-high 13 points from freshman Jared Wagner.
Hunter and his team will be able to enjoy the next eight days off before heading into their Capital Athletic Conference schedule against Penn State-Harrisburg next Wednesday with a 3-1 record.
“Our team is learning,” Hunter said. “We were in a lot of close games (last year) and didn’t finish them all. This year we’ve been in three and we finished them. So that’s great growth for our team.”
With another year of experience under the belt of standouts Matt Scamuffo, Dalton Myers and others, combined with the influx of playmaking by guys such as freshmen Wagner and Darin Gordon, the Spartans appear primed to improve upon a 10-15 record from a year ago.
Hunter, now in his fifth year at the helm at York, sounded excited about the potential of his squad.
“We have a good group of returners that ... know how to play and have been through it a bit,” he said. “And then our new guys are talented and basketball-savvy guys, and they’ve all meshed well together.”
One of the best examples of that is Wagner, a former standout at Central York. Battling a leg injury suffered over the weekend against F&M, the Spartan freshman wasn’t sure he’d be able to even play Tuesday. But there he was on the court, creating turnovers, making shots and playing with his usual all-out hustle.
“The training staff here did a great job,” Wagner said. “I didn’t even know if I would be able to play. And then I re-injured by ankle right before halftime. I’m just always getting hurt.”
Wagner was able to seal his team’s victory in the final seconds of overtime. Trailing 71-69 with 15.3 seconds left, the visitors got off two shots to either take the lead or tie it before Wagner corralled the rebound and was fouled in the paint with 2.3 seconds left. He then sank a pair of free throws to make it a two-possession contest.
“It just shows a lot of character that we found a way to win,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to go into the break with a win.”
Myers finished with 12 points for the Spartans, while Scamuffo chipped in 11. Gordon, a Spring Grove grad, has been a starter in all four games for York this season. The former Rocket standout finished with two points and four rebounds.
Bermudian Springs grad Neil Murren led the Falcons with 15 points. Luke Cable, a former standout at West York, tallied five points and three rebounds for Messiah (2-2).
Spartan women rout Goucher: The York College women's basketball team went on the road and blew out Goucher College, 90-50, on Tuesday night.
The Spartans (3-1) outscored the Gophers (0-4) in every quarter.
Susquehannock grad Katie Wagner finished with a team-high 18 points for the Spartans, while Sam Hruz notched a double-double, posting 12 points and 15 rebounds. Twelve of the 13 York players who saw minutes scored in the game. Red Lion grad Morgan Kuehne added eight points in 18 minutes.
York will be back in action again on Sunday, when it hosts Lebanon Valley College at 2 p.m.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.