The York College men’s basketball team has some nice accomplishments already under its belt this season.
The Spartans, however, are far from finished.
Saturday’s emphatic response to a recent sour stretch reminded folks just what the team is capable of when it lives up to its established potential
The week leading up to a runaway 81-58 win against Marymount on Saturday, Jan. 27, was anything but kind.
The Spartans saw their school-record 16-game winning streak end in a tough road loss to Mary Washington on Saturday, Jan. 20. That was followed by a second straight road defeat, this one at the hands of a Frostburg State squad that was beyond hot on Wednesday, Jan 24.
As a result, York slipped from its No. 4 ranking in the D3hoops.com poll to No. 7 prior to the Frostburg setback. It will no doubt slip a little lower once the latest NCAA Division III poll is released. The No. 4 ranking had tied the highest in school history, previously set in Week 12 of the 2005-06 season.
The Marymount win showed the traits that can make the Spartans special, and what carried them to historic heights.
Balanced, efficient attack: York utilizes a balanced and efficient attack, one whose high assist numbers showcase an unselfish nature and its willingness to find the best shot regardless of who gets the glory.
The Spartans (17-2, 10-2 Capital Athletic Conference) finished Saturday’s rout shooting 55.4 percent from the floor, their best performance of the season.
York currently sports the conference’s best offense at 84.9 points per game. It also boasts the CAC’s highest shooting percentage at 47.4 and has the highest assists-per-game mark at 18.1. Saturday, York put up 23 assists in scorching the Saints.
For its part, York was also solid on the other end of the floor, holding Marymount to 33.3 percent shooting. That mark was the second-lowest opponent percentage of the season.
York has achieved its offensive prowess with a balanced lineup that includes a pair of senior leaders who have earned high honors in Blayde Reich and Dalton Myers. Both were recently named to the 2018 Bevo Francis Award Top 100 National Watch List.
Reich also became the 24th Spartan in program history to eclipse the 1,000-point career scoring mark during Saturday’s win. He finished with 17 points.
“It was good to be at home and get into a rhythm and get going early, and then kind of keep that momentum throughout the game,” York head coach Matt Hunter said.
Reich leads the Spartans and is third in the CAC in scoring at 18.0 points per game. Myers is right behind him at 17.8 points per game, fourth in the conference. Reich is also third in the conference at 7.9 rebounds per game.
Spartan starters Matt Scamuffo (12.7 ppg) and Jared Wagner (11.7 ppg) are scoring in double figures, and Jason Bady is nearly there at 9.9 points per. Wagner is a Central York High School graduate.
Historical perspective: For some historical perspective, those numbers are in line with some special Spartan teams of the past.
The 2004-2005 Spartans squad that captured a CAC title and reached the NCAA Division III Final Four averaged 80.1 points per game on 47.9 percent shooting. They shot 40.3 percent from 3-point range and averaged 18 assists of their own.
They too had four starters average double digits, with a fifth player in the nine-point range.
The 2011-12 team, the last Spartans men’s club to capture a CAC tournament title, weren’t nearly as prolific on offense. That team averaged 69.7 points per contest on 45.7 percent shooting and a 35.3 average from deep.
Overcoming hurdles: Those back-to-back losses earlier in the week? They sort of fit right in as the type of hurdles successful Spartans squads have had to overcome.
For whatever the reason, Mary Washington (14-5, 8-4) has been a “house of horrors” for the Spartans. Their last victory in Fredericksburg, Virginia, came in 2012 in the CAC title game. York has lost six straight at Mary Washington.
Mary Washington did York a bit of favor recently, traveling to Salisbury on Saturday and knocking off the Sea Gulls (13-6, 9-3 CAC). That victory gives York a one-game, first-place lead in CAC play.
The 2004-05 team went on a 14-game winning streak after a road loss to the Eagles. That streak didn’t end until the Division III Final Four.
Frostburg sizzling: As for the setback at Frostburg State, the numbers are also quite telling there.
The Bobcats had a season-best night. A team that sits near the bottom of the conference in shooting percentage was red hot.
Frostburg State is shooting 42.4 percent from the floor, next to last in the conference. They also sit last in 3-point shooting at 30.4 percent.
During their victory over the Spartans? The Bobcat managed to knock down 34 of their 63 attempts (54.0 percent), a total that included 13 of 22 attempts (59.1 percent) from beyond the arc.
“That’s the beauty and the curse of basketball, and when you’re on the wrong side, it’s the curse,” Hunter said of the loss to the Bobcats. “You have to tip your hat to Frostburg. They played a great game. They obviously made a ton of shots.”
Unbeaten season was always unlikely: The law of averages suggested all along that York was unlikely to finish the season undefeated.
A cold shooting night, by York’s standards, meeting up with a ridiculously hot night by an opponent was bound to happen. A perfect season in college basketball is incredibly rare at any level.
With all the pressures of protecting perfection now lifted, things can simply get back to normal.
“I think we did a really good job of insulating ourselves from (the attention) and just focusing on one game at a time,” Hunter said “But I’m sure the guys felt it a little bit. There’s obviously a lot of attention. … So, if you’re going to hit a lull in your season, you’d rather it be in January than at the end of February, that’s for sure.”
Home cooking: Saturday’s win kicked off a three-game home stand for the Spartans that includes Wednesday’s match-up with Wesley and a Saturday, Feb. 3, home tilt with Southern Virginia.
It’s all part of a run that has the Spartans at home for five of their last seven, starting with Saturday’s triumph.
If they can continue to meet the markers they’ve already set, York should only add to this club’s season of success.
“We just have to continue to focus on playing one game at a time, and investing everything we have in that game. From an attention standpoint, from an energy and enthusiasm standpoint, from an execution standpoint, that’s what we talk about with our team,” Hunter said. “All the records and streaks are great for everyone else to talk about, but we need to focus on our one-game season and doing what we need to do to be successful.”
Elijah Armold is a sports reporter for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.