'Battle-tested' York High Bearcats back in familiar position — a District 3 title game
- York High is back in a District 3 championship for the first time since reaching the 2015 4-A game.
- The Bearcats are looking for their fourth District 3 crown overall in the last eight seasons.
- A challenging schedule is credited with preparing the Bearcats for their playoff run.
After Kyree Generett’s clutch 3-pointer in the closing seconds sent Monday’s District 3 Class 5-A boys’ basketball semifinal into overtime, there was nothing for York High head coach Clovis Gallon to say.
Almost nothing was new to his Bearcats. Not the situation, the caliber of opponent or even the type of venue.
Only the stakes were new for his team, but the Bearcats displayed a poise born from the experiences gained during what Gallon called a “brutal” schedule, which had them more than prepared for the big moment against the vaunted Northeastern Bobcats.
“I didn’t have to tell them anything, they were experienced at big overtime games,” Gallon said. “It was just 'be disciplined, stick to the game plan, understand what we’re doing and stick to our keys.' I didn’t tell them anything special.”
York went on to an 84-80 victory to reach Thursday’s Class 5-A title game against Milton Hershey at the Giant Center. The win was befitting a squad that's made a habit this season of hard-fought victories.
The “battle-tested” Bearcats, as Generett called them after Monday’s triumph, have seen overtime six times this season. Monday’s win was their third in the last four times they’ve needed more than 32 minutes.
Playoff run: The Bearcats are back in a district championship game for the first time since 2015, when they won the title as the No. 3 seed in 4-A. A victory Thursday would be York’s first championship in 5-A and its fourth overall in the past eight seasons. York also claimed the 4-A crown in 2011 and 2014.
The Bearcats are bouncing back from a lull in Gallon’s first two years with the program, including an 8-14 campaign a year ago. Gallon, a 1993 graduate of the school, took over the program after a few years as an assistant for previous coach Troy Sowers, who enjoyed great success and many visits to the Giant Center during his tenure at York.
“I don’t really have time to enjoy the moment. Maybe after the season I’ll do that,” Gallon said of returning the Bearcats to the championship. “But, I’ll tell you what though, it’s been a blessing to be part of that run (under Sowers). … It gave me a lot of experience to be in this moment right now,” adding that his experiences prove valuable in navigating the logistics of participating in the later rounds of districts and in venues such as the Giant Center.
The Bearcats entered the D-3 5-A tournament after a 13-9 regular season that saw them fall just short of a York-Adams League playoff berth.
They got things started with a 57-53 victory at Y-A Division I foe and district seventh-seed New Oxford in the first round. York’s first big upset of the tourney followed when the Bearcats went on the road and defeated No. 2 Greencastle-Antrim, 53-50, in the quarterfinals.
York’s thrilling OT win vs. defending 5-A champ and third-seeded Northeastern came next. It marked the second time this season the Bearcats defeated the Bobcats in extra time.
Lessons learned: York’s return to the district title game is just as much about the lessons learned during the regular season as it is about the Bearcats’ playoff results.
Generett noted after Monday’s win that York is the typical "underdog" — a team underappreciated because of its record. But he also said the team’s current success is derived from having constantly sought ought ways to simulate the big moments.
About a month before the district run began, the Bearcats' schedule gave the team a preview of district playoff caliber competition.
That stretch began with a game against D-3 6-A quarterfinalist Harrisburg on Jan. 13. Three nights later, York picked up a win against Math Civics and Science, who is playing in the District 12/City 2-A title game on Thursday.
The Bearcats grabbed an OT win at 6-A quarterfinalist Dallastown on Jan. 23 before a game with Central York three nights after. York would take District 1 5-A semifinalist Chester to OT a night after battling the 6-A Panthers.
Then came the Bearcats’ signature victory to that point on Jan. 30, when they knocked off a then-18-0 Northeastern squad in double OT.
It was all part of a plan. The Bearcats' schedule was loaded with non-league tests when they could have opted for record-padding competition. That included a meeting with D-3 6-A finalist Reading early in the season.
In addition there was a victory vs. 6-A quarterfinalist Cedar Crest at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
“That’s why we’re here. Our schedule is a brutal, brutal schedule,” Gallon said. “Division I in the York-Adams League is comparable with any league. … We’ve been in games like this all year long. There were no breaks for us. That’s why we have a lot of experience come this time (of the year).”
This season, D-I saw its top five teams qualify for District 3 spots and was represented by Central York and Northeastern in the league championship. The Bobcats repeated as league champs, continuing a trend that has seen the division produce the league’s champion every year since 2012.
This year, D-I will boast two of the four best teams in D-3 5-A and and three of the top 10. (New Oxford is in the ninth-place game). Dallastown, meanwhile, has qualified for 6-A state playoffs.
Spartans await: No. 5 Milton Hershey, coached by Mark Zerbe, enters Thursday’s title tilt at 22-3 and was runner-up in the Mid-Penn Conference after winning the league’s Capital Division.
Pedro Rodriguez is leading the Spartans in D-3 play, averaging 23 points. He’s coming off a double-double with 28 points and 10 boards in a 75-68 semifinal win vs No. 8 Lower Dauphin (19-6).
Donyae Baylor-Carroll is averaging 20.4 points per game in D-3 contests after his 21-point effort in Monday’s semifinal. Baylor-Carroll went off for 34 points on the strength of nine 3-pointers during a 90-66 quarterfinal rout of No. 13 Garden Spot (15-12).
The Bearcats are playing Thursday thanks to a game-high 36-point effort from senior standout Generett, who knocked down six shots from beyond the arc. Generett is averaging 24 points in D-3 games and is complemented by district-double-digit scorers Marquise McClean (13) and Clovis Gallon Jr. (11.3).
“Being disciplined in our half-court offense,” Gallon said of what the Bearcats will need to do vs. the Spartans “We really pride ourselves on not turning the ball over, limiting it to one shot on their possession and playing sound defense. We feel like if we do those things, we’ll be in position to win.”
Reach Elijah Armold at earmold@firstname.lastname@example.org.