With the Capital Athletic Conference basketball playoffs looming, Wednesday night served as perfect preparation for both York College basketball teams.
Each squad was reminded of a pair of notions that are needed for postseason success.
The first being that, as the regular season winds down, it’s better to get into a "do-or-die" mentality sooner rather than later. The other being that, when things are in doubt, stick with your game plan.
Men's game: With the third seed in the upcoming CAC tourney already locked up, the Spartans' men's team (16-8, 12-5 CAC) added one more lesson — never overlook an opponent.
Early on, it seemed as if coach Matt Hunter’s Spartans might have had their eyes on the future. Still, York was able to adjust in time to collect an 86-72 victory against Frostburg State (6-18, 5-12).
“The first time we overlook somebody, it will not be a pretty day for this team, and they know that,” Hunter said. “We play one-game seasons, so we were 1-0 today and that’s all that matters. Now we wash it off and refocus and try to go 1-0 in the next game. That’s how we attack it.”
The Spartans were heavily tested in a first half that saw them shoot just 27.5 percent from the floor (11-for-40). However, it was inspired play defensively that enabled York to stave off a 53.8 percent effort from the Bobcats.
York was able to secure 13 points off of turnovers in the first half, on the strength of eight steals. Freshman Jared Wagner, a Central York grad, recorded four of those swipes and scored six first-half points as the Spartans took a trim 34-33 lead into the break.
The Spartans are in the CAC tournament for the second time in Hunter’s five-year tenure after missing the tourney a season ago. The Spartans are enjoying the best season in the Hunter era. One reason for York’s success this year has been Wagner’s well-rounded play.
The former Panther's performance this season can best be described as "a little bit of everything." While seldom dominating one particular statistical category, Wagner often makes significant contributions in multiple areas.
Wednesday’s performance was no exception. Wagner scored 14 points to go along with six rebounds, five steals and three assists.
“It’s something I’ve always done, something I’ve always been taught,” Wagner said of his approach toward a complete effort. “I was taught sometimes your offense isn’t going to be there every night, but there are a lot of other things you can control. You can control your defense, your communication, how hard you work; and that’s what I try to do.”
With the scored tied at 36 early in the second half, Wagner went on a hot streak that saw him score eight of the Spartans’ next 12 points. York went on a 12-2 run during that span to push its lead to 48-38 and started to pull away for good.
“That’s how we play, and we just got to stick with it and keep going and know that we’re eventually going to return to how we shoot every day,” Hunter said. “We got a good streak in the second half to stretch it out. We got a lot of the same shots, we just knocked them down; I don’t know it was anything we did differently.”
York’s Matt Scamuffo led all scorers with a game-high 26 points.
Women’s game: The York women’s team figured why wait for the playoffs to switch to that "must-win" mindset.
With the possibility of hosting a first-round CAC tournament game very much within their reach, the Spartans (17-7, 11-6 CAC) adopted that mentality for Wednesday’s home game against Frostburg State (11-13, 9-8).
“Frostburg, Salisbury (13-11, 9-8), us, we’re all kind of there together (in the CAC standings),” head coach Betsy Witman said. “I told my team before the game, this is a must-win game. If you want to be at home (when the playoffs start), this is a must win.”
Led by a game-high 19 points from Red Lion grad Morgan Kuehne, the Spartans were able to pull away late for a 78-56 victory. The win, combined with Salisbury’s loss at St. Mary’s, means the Spartans locked up the fourth seed and a first-round home contest in the CAC playoffs.
York was able to overcome a sluggish first half that saw the Spartans go 9 of 34 from the field by simply sticking to what it knew would be the winning formula.
With only a five-point lead to start the fourth quarter, the Spartans went back to relentlessly pounding the ball inside the paint. York was able to record 18 of its 36 points in the paint in the final quarter.
“At halftime we talked about finishing shots, being able to expect contact, not necessarily the call, and still finish,” Witman said. “We started taking it to the basket expecting the contact, and we just needed to play through it. We needed to play better team defense, and we did that in the second half.”
The attacking style also lent itself to a number of trips to the free throw line. The Spartans were able to earn 34 attempts, converting 23, while Frostburg was only able to get to the line 14 times.
Kuehne was a major player in the fourth-quarter push that saw the Spartans outscore the Bobcats 33-16. Her slashing style resulted in eight of her 19 points coming the fourth. She also earned seven trips to the foul line, converting four.
Susquehannock grad Katie Wagner finished with 15 points and three steals. Sam Mocniak hit three 3-pointers on her way to 11 points for the Spartans.
The Spartans got 49 of their 78 points from York-Adams League grads. West York grad Sarah Shearer added eight points for York while Dallastown grads Katie McGowan (four) and Debria Hendricks (three) also chipped in.
Both York College teams conclude their regular seasons with home games Saturday against Christopher Newport. The women tip off at 1 p.m., followed by the men at 3 p.m.
Reach Elijah Armold at email@example.com.