STROHECKER: Reigning York-Adams League boys' basketball champs have good chance to repeat
- Northeastern returns three starters from last year's Division I, Y-A League and District 3 5-A championship team.
- After winning Division II last season, Dover didn't graduate a single player.
- York Catholic will need to cope with the loss of four starters, including Division I product Melik Martin.
Nobody likes the person who picks chalk when filling out a bracket during March Madness.
In the end, picking favorites tends to be the better, more successful strategy, but the fun when filling out a bracket comes with finding and picking upsets.
Don't worry, I'm not fast-forwarding more than three months to discuss the college basketball national tournament. I am, however, setting up a preview of which York-Adams League boys' basketball teams could reign supreme in each of the three divisions by the regular season's end.
If you're someone who doesn't like people who pick chalk, well, then too bad, because that appears to be how things are shaping up.
Division I: Of the three division predictions, this may have been the easiest one to project, which is kind of backwards, considering Division I is typically the most competitive.
When a team like Northeastern, however, wins Division I, the Y-A League tournament, the District 3 5-A tournament, makes a run to the state semifinals and returns nearly all of its key players for an encore, then it deserves all the preseason accolades.
The Bobcats weren't without their losses from last year's squad, graduating Austin Greene and Brandon Coleman, but Northeastern won't be at a loss trying to replace them. The Bobcats weren't a big team last season and won't be again this year, but that suits their up-tempo style of play just fine.
Senior Nate Eyster will likely slot into Coleman's starting spot, while the addition of senior D.J. Hamilton from York Country Day will be the replacement at guard for Greene. Add in returning seniors Fred Mulbah and Antonio Rizzuto and second-year starter, sophomore Nate Wilson, and this team could very easily match last season's 30-3 record and repeat all its championship feats.
That isn't to say that Northeastern won't have its challengers. Dallastown is expected to be a real threat and looks ready to take the next step, while also returning much of its core from last year's district qualifying team. Central York is always a threat to make the league and district playoffs under head coach Kevin Schieler, regardless of how much it loses from the previous year.
York High should also be better after going 8-14 last year and New Oxford was a state qualifier and could challenge to get into the top three. Spring Grove is destined to take a step back after graduating Eli Brooks and three other starters.
So, with the Bobcats occupying one of the three Division I league tournament berths, there should be around four other teams fighting for the final two spots from D-I.
Division II: As with Northeastern, Dover did a lot of its damage a season ago with underclassmen.
While the overall season wasn't nearly as impressive as the Bobcats' campaign, it was a good foundation year for the Eagles.
Dover claimed the Division II title despite not having one senior on its roster. So, with all of their players returning and the addition of a couple others who were hurt last season, it makes sense that the Eagles will at least start 2017-18 as the favorites.
Three of Dover's starters last year averaged double figures in scoring. Keith Davis led the way with 17.0 points per game, followed by Brady Bowman's 15.5 ppg and Elijah Sutton's 12.0 ppg. Out of that group, only Bowman is a senior.
The Eagles will actually have a Senior Night this season, with four players being in their final year of high school, but don't expect this to be the end of Dover basketball. More than half of the team will return again in 2018-19.
The Eagles' nearest competition for the division title will likely come from Kennard-Dale, a squad that took massive strides forward last year and returns its entire starting five. It's been seven seasons since the Rams had a winning season, but they'll be expected to snap that drought, while also contending for a division title.
Eastern York will have a younger team than in recent years, but still has expectations to produce some sort of postseason. West York should also factor into the conversation to make the league tournament. But, like so many teams are doing now, especially in Division II, the Bulldogs are a team that is very junior heavy, so they'll be building for 2018-19, while still contending this season.
Division III: The small-school division might be the hardest to judge because reigning champion York Catholic lost so much, while other programs are on the rise.
However, I'm sticking with the Fighting Irish solely because they were so dominant last season that it doesn't seem doable for another program to overtake them in just one year's time.
York Catholic went 22-4 overall and 14-0 in division play last season. For comparison's sake, the second-place team in Division III was Delone Catholic, which went 11-3 in division play and 12-12 overall. Littlestown actually might make the biggest jump from last year to this year after going 16-10 overall and qualifying for the league tournament.
The Fighting Irish will certainly be vulnerable, at least early on. They graduated four starters from last season's team, including current Division I player Melik Martin, who's at Monmouth. That leaves D'Andre Davis as the sole returner from the starting lineup. He's more than capable of handling a heavy workload, but he'll need support from the likes of Robbie McNamara, Torrey Thomas and Riley Brennan.
Even if it's for a brief period, any sort of slow start by York Catholic could be enough to open the door for a team like the Squires or Thunderbolts to take advantage. But, if any other team besides the Fighting Irish, wants to win the division crown, it'll have to go out and win it because the gap between York Catholic and everyone else was too large last year to expect the Fighting Irish to just give away the division.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com