York College men's hoops sees exit of special senior group after NCAA Tournament loss
A lot can sometimes be said by speaking nearly no words at all.
A perfect example being the scene that played out Saturday night inside the Grumbacher Center’s interview room after the York College saw its special season ended in heartbreaking fashion.
After his team’s 69-66 loss to Hamilton College in the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament, Spartans head coach Matt Hunter was asked what his trio of seniors have meant to the program.
The gravity of it all flooded Hunter, who had to fight back oncoming emotions while answering.
“You can go in to the locker room right now and see what they mean,” Hunter said before taking a long pause to hold back the emotion. “They’re devastated right now, but I wouldn’t want them to feel any other way; I think it means we did things the right way. But as some time goes on and they’re able to look back on everything, it will be really special.”
As he continued to field questions, Hunter caught a glimpse of Dalton Myers, Matt Scamuffo and Blayde Reich awaiting their entry to the room.
He didn’t need to explain any further.
Hunter could see it in their eyes, it wasn’t the time; they had been through enough. The coach merciful asked to spare the rigors of being asked to pour salt in the fresh wounds. After all they had been through together, it was the least he could do.
Losing program greats: In Hunter’s words, Saturday loss was more about the stellar individuals the program now loses rather than results of a game. York will now see the departure of three players who helped turnaround a downtrodden Spartans program and helped lead them to historic heights.
“There’s nothing quite like college athletics, and the relationships you get to develop over the course of time. Forget everything that they did or accomplished on the basketball court, it’s about human beings. And what they mean for this program, it can’t be put into words.”
The group helped York to a 24-5 record and a No. 11 ranking in the latest D3hoops.com poll during a season that saw the Spartans capture a co-regular season Capital Athletic Conference title. It was their first regular-season crown since 2008. York would then go on to win its first conference tournament title since 2012.
With that CAC tourney title came an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III tournament, the Spartans first appearance in the event since 2012. The Spartans promptly recorded another first when they took down Yeshiva in Friday’s first round for the first NCAA Tournament win in the Grumbacher Center. It was York’s first NCAA victory since 2006, when they last hosted in old Wolf Gymnasium.
Big senior seasons: Serious team success like the Spartans found this year, however, does not come without standout individual performances.
Enter the trio of seniors.
All three finished in the top 20 on the Spartans career scoring list. Myers leads the way with 1,499 points placing him just 25 points behind Delone Catholic grad Nick Brady for ninth in York College history. Scamuffo is next in 12th with 1,386 points and Reich finishes in 20th with 1,143 points.
Each member of the group also ranks highly in various offensive and defensive categories. They’ve also earned the attention of the conference as well.
Myers, a first-team All-CAC selection this season, led the Spartans with 17.6 points per game while also adding 4.8 rebounds per game.
His efforts also made Myers a 2018 Jostens Trophy nominee. The award is given annually by the Rotary Club of Salem, Virginia to honor the outstanding men's and women's NCAA Division III basketball players of the year.
He’s also on the 2018 Bevo Francis Award Top 100 Watch List. That award is presented by Small College Basketball and the watch list for the award consists of 100 of the top men's players in the country who compete in NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III, NAIA Division I, NAIA Division II, USCAA and NCCAA.
Reich was also a first-team All-CAC pick and Bevo Francis one to watch after scoring 16.4 points per game and leading the Spartans in rebounding at 7.7 boards per contest.
Scamuffo, who averaged 12.7 points per game and 3.1 rebounds this season, was a first-team All-CAC pick a season ago.
Incredible turnaround: Those seniors were part of an incredible turnaround for both the program and Hunter.
One of the first groups Hunter totally took from start to finish as Spartans got off to a rough start as freshman with a 5-20 season in 2014-15. From there, York showed steady, marked improvement each year by going 10-15 in 2015-16, before showing a lot of promise in 2016-17 with a 17-10 record.
York returned every starter from that team, and the experiences paid off with the third highest win total in school history this year. Hunter, who went 27-74 in first four seasons, is suddenly 41-15 over his last two.
Credit should also be given to the York College administration for having the vision to stay with Hunter long enough to watch his plans come to fruition.
But before he’ll boast of any accomplishment on the hardwood by his departing trio, Hunter is quick to point out how proud he is off the group’s character growth.
“Who they are as people,” Hunter said of the most fun part of watching the trio mature. “We live in a society where it’s really easy to quit and people don’t really bat an eye at it. And those guys stuck through a couple of years where we were really battling up hill and they kept fighting through it. They realized what facing down adversity can mean; because the payoff is so much greater in the end than if you walk away from it.”
The future: As those seniors leave, having set a fine example, the team will be handed over to a capable group featuring a pair of York-Adams League products.
Leading the way will be Central York High School graduate Jared Wagner. In his sophomore season, Wagner was fourth on the team in scoring at 10.6 points per game. His high-energy, do-it-all style often left nary a column empty in the stat book. Wagner led York with 4.4 assists per game and was also tops in steals at 2.3 per game while also grabbing 4.2 rebounds a contest.
Jason Bady will help complete one of the more formidable backcourts around. During his junior campaign, Bady was fifth on the team in scoring with a 10.3 points per game average.
An incredible athleticism manifested not just on offense for Bady, but perhaps more notable on the defensive end of the floor. There collected 5.9 rebounds per game, averaged 1.9 steals and blocked 0.7 shots. Those totals were each second-highest on the Spartans roster.
Also among the players who will be expected to take on larger roles is Spring Grove High School grad Darin Gordon. The sophomore Gordon gained lots of valuable experience this year, playing 17.2 minutes a game on average off the bench and scoring 4.9 points per game.
As he continues to fill out a 6-foot, 3-inch frame, his combination of size and skill should nicely fill the small forward role going forward.
Myers (6-7) and Reich’s (6-5) departure also constitutes a loss of size, but York returns Joey Polczynski (6-6, 14.3 minutes, 4.0 points per game) and Zach Novick (6-6, 7 minutes, 4.0 ppg).
— Reach Elijah Armold at email@example.com