EMMITSBURG, MARYLAND — Before Tuesday night's Nov. 21 game could even get under way, the York College men’s basketball team had to wait it out as Mount St. Mary’s did a little well-earned boasting.
The host Mountaineers were opening their 2017-18 home schedule by revealing championship banners.
Road games in November are sometimes privy to such displays. But, for the Spartans, Tuesday’s 91-80 loss to the Mountaineers was different.
For starters, the Spartans (2-0), as part of NCAA Division III play, usually see Capital Athletic Conference cloth head upward in some fashion.
On Tuesday, the Mountaineers (2-3) treated their fans to a video recap of a NCAA Division I Northeast Conference title season, one that saw Mount St. Mary’s make an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
“They hung two banners, there was tons of energy and emotion in that gym tonight,” Spartans head coach Matt Hunter said. “Our guys competed really, really hard. To come into this environment, on this night, I was impressed with the way we never backed down competitively.”
Also separating this game from the norm was its genesis.
Mount St. Mary’s was to be playing Tuesday's game as part of the Maui on the Mainland portion of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational Tournament. However, the Mounts’ original opponent fell through in August, leaving an open date.
That’s when a pair of close friends, assistant coaches on each team, got in touch to help make Tuesday’s game happen.
Lastly, there’s the matter of credit. While the game counts in the overall standings for the Mounts, it went down as an exhibition for the Spartans.
Wagner's big night: So Tuesday’s game could have been considered of little consequence to the Spartans; but quite to the contrary, it was of major benefit — especially to the Spartans’ Jared Wagner.
Wagner, a Central York graduate, gained a measure of confidence from his team-high 23-point performance that his approach to the game can help the Spartans to a special season.
After posting the best record of the Hunter era a season ago with a 17-10 mark, Wagner and the rest of the Spartans believe this season can be a memorable one. Perhaps even one that culminates in the Spartans first CAC title since the 2011-12 season.
Tuesday night’s contest gave Wagner and the Spartans an early chance to see how this team measures up expectations.
“We wanted to come down here and win. Yeah, it didn’t happen, but I’m still proud of the effort we gave tonight,” Wagner said.
Using his signature blend of grit and high-energy play, Wagner righted the ship for York a number of times when it looked as if the Mountaineers would put away the game.
He highlighted his night by getting out on the break, taking a pass and hitting a spinning layup in transition while absorbing a foul. It put the score at 70-56 Mountaineers with just over seven minutes left to play. But more importantly, it energized a York side that was starting to let a close contest turn into a rout.
Wagner did a little bit of everything for the Spartans to get them going, from his seven rebounds and four assists, to the two steals and blocked shot he recorded.
“We really believe this can be a special year,” Wagner said. “This is just another task and we didn’t finish it off at the end. But we gave 100-percent effort; what else can you ask for.”
Poor start shooting: Things got off to a slow start for a Spartans side that is now 6-32 all-time against Division I foes.
York began its eighth meeting with Mount St. Mary’s with an 0 for 7 shooting performance during which the Spartans fell behind 6-0 early.
Jason Bady got the game’s scoring started for York, helping the Spartans break out of their early funk by scoring seven of York’s first nine points. Bady would finish with 12 points in the first half, and Dalton Myers would add 10 in the same span as the hosts took a 36-30 edge into the locker room at halftime.
Bady and Myers each finished with 14 points, with Bady adding eight rebounds and Myers chipping in three boards and two assists. Matt Scamffuo also hit double digits for York with 10 points.
“To come in and compete at this level, it just provides invaluable experience in league play,” Hunter said. “There’s really no negative coming out of tonight in what we can learn, evaluate and take away from this.”
York needed to battle in the second half after a cold-shooting first half saw the Spartans go 11 for 39 from the field, including a 2 of 17 mark from 3-point range.
Both teams attempted to take control of the game from beyond the arc, with York hitting on nine of 29 attempts. The Mountaineers gained a major edge by draining 15 of their 33 lone-range chances.
Senior guard Junior Robinson led the way for the Mountaineers with a game-high 27 points. Teammate Jonah Antonio added 23 more on 6 of 9 shooting from 3-point range. Donald Carey dished out 12 assists to go along with adding 11 points to the victorious cause.
The Spartans will have their home opener on Sunday, Nov. 26 with a 3 p.m. game against Gettysburg College.
— Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org