VIDEO: Northeastern's Nate Wilson discusses his game-winning 3-pointer in the Bobcats' 47-46 win over Manheim Township on Wednesday. York Dispatch
The ebbs and flows of a high school boys’ basketball season are notoriously unpredictable.
That uncertainty is a big reason the local gyms tend to get more crowded as the games get more meaningful. You never know what you’re going to see. It makes for some great drama.
If you’re a sports fan, it’s the best cheap entertainment you can find in the heart of a York County winter.
Now that we’ve reached the middle of January, the games promise to get more intense as the stakes increase in significance.
In just more than two weeks, the eight-team field will be set for the York-Adams League playoffs.
In just more than three weeks, the District 3 Tournament berths will be determined.
Teams that want to join the postseason party desperately need to pile up victories over the coming weeks.
Here are three intriguing Y-A stories to follow before we get to the February Frenzy:
The team no one wants to play?: The Dover Eagles might appear to be an unlikely story to focus on.
After all, the Eagles are barely above .500 at 8-7 and are just above the middle of the pack in Y-A D-II at 4-3, good for a third-place tie with Gettysburg. West York and Eastern York are tied for the D-II lead at 6-1.
So, what makes Dover such an interesting team?
Well, for one, they have the leading scorer in the Y-A League in Elijah Sutton, who has made 30-plus-point outbursts almost commonplace. He even pumped in 42 points back on Jan. 3 when he needed 41 to reach 1,000 points for his career.
Now, however, Sutton is getting some serious help just in time to boost the Eagles’ postseason hopes.
That’s because Dover’s leading scorer from last season, Keith Davis, has returned to the Eagles’ lineup. Davis averaged about 20 points per game last season, but had to sit out most of this season with an injured shooting hand.
Friday night, in a 61-46 loss to West York, Davis scored nine points. Monday night, in an 81-39 pounding of Kennard-Dale, Davis appeared to shake off the rust, pumping in 22 points. Sutton erupted for 38 points in that same game.
As Davis and Sutton get more acclimated to playing with each other again, the Eagles could turn into a team that no one wants to play come playoff time.
There’s just one problem. The Eagles aren’t guaranteed to make either the league or district postseason.
It’s likely three teams from D-II will make the Y-A playoffs, because the eighth-and-final Y-A playoff berth goes to the third-place team from D-II or D-III with the highest District 3 power rating. Right now, it looks like that team will come from D-II.
Still, Dover will likely have get past a talented Gettysburg team to earn the third spot from D-II.
As for districts, Dover sits at No. 13 in the Class 5-A power ratings, with the top 16 teams making the field.
Dover’s regular-season schedule down the stretch, however, is quite daunting, including games vs. Gettysburg (8-7), Cumberland Valley (11-2), Eastern York (11-3), West York (11-2) and Waynesboro (11-1).
If Dover can get past that gauntlet and make the league and district playoffs, they could be a squad poised to pull off a big upset come February.
Will a loss lead to bigger wins down the road? Before Friday night, there’s little doubt that the biggest story in the Y-A League this season had been the York High Bearcats.
This past Friday, however, a sizzling New Oxford team stunned the Bearcats with an early barrage of 3-pointers. The Colonials made their first seven from behind the arc en route to a 32-10 advantage. The Bearcats rallied, and eventually took a one-point, fourth-quarter lead, before falling 79-73.
That gave York High (12-1) its first loss of the season. It also knocked the Bearcats off their pedestal as the top-ranked team in the state in Class 5-A, according to a pair of different state-wide polls. Both polls now have York High at No. 5. York is still No. 1 in the District 3 5-A power ratings.
According to Bearcats head coach Clovis Gallon Sr., however, that loss may be a blessing in disguise. He believes the defeat will alleviate some of the stress that had been building on his players. The Bearcats will no longer have to worry about protecting a perfect record or their No. 1 ranking. They can just play.
“That loss popped a bubble. It relieved the pressure,” Gallon said. “Seeing the social media post every week about being ranked No. 1 in the state, that makes you the target for everyone and the opponent feels like they have nothing to lose. For us, walking away from that game, it was almost like we got that loss behind us.”
Gallon may be right. Now, the Bearcats can focus on simply getting better and achieving their major goals: winning D-I, winning the league playoffs and making extended district and state runs.
York’s remaining schedule should certainly have the team ready for the playoffs. The Bearcats have D-I games left vs. Central York (11-4), Northeastern (11-4) and New Oxford (11-3). York’s remaining nonleague contests may be even more difficult: William Allen (8-5), Harrisburg (8-4) and Chester (7-4).
An unbeaten regular season? There is only one unbeaten team left in the Y-A League, and it’s a program that isn’t exactly synonymous with basketball success — Littlestown.
In fact, before sharing the Y-A D-III title last season with York Catholic, the Thunderbolts had never won Y-A boys' basketball division title of any kind.
Now, with the regular season nearly two-thirds complete, Littlestown sits at 14-0 overall, including an 8-0 mark in D-III.
Led by sharp-shooting Logan Collins, who is averaging more than 21 points per game, Littlestown has rarely even been challenged this season.
In fact, the Thunderbolts’ only win by less than 13 points was last Thursday’s 50-48 victory over a Boiling Springs team that sits at 3-9.
Littlestown’s remaining eight games feature six contests vs. D-III foes that they have already handled easily this season. The two nonleague foes are Spring Grove (1-12) and Susquehannock (4-9).
Given that schedule, it’s hard to envision Littlestown (sitting No. 2 in the District 3 4-A power ratings) taking a loss before the postseason.
It should be noted, however, that the Thunderbolts’ regular-season schedule has not exactly been challenging. D-III is not particularly strong this season, and Littlestown’s eight nonleague foes have a combined record of 35-70. Of those teams, only Gettysburg, at 8-7, has a winning record.
Once the playoffs roll around, it will be interesting to see how Littlestown fares.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. All records for this story were through Monday, Jan. 14.