With 30 seconds left in a close game, being the home team is supposed to be an advantage.
It wasn’t on Friday night for the West York boys’ basketball team in a pivotal, Division II match-up against Eastern York.
The Bulldogs, who led for most of the second half, clung to a 58-56 lead with Alex McClellan, their best player and one of the best shooters in the York-Adams League, at the free-throw line.
Before he lined up to shoot the front end of a one-and-one, McClellan and a few other Bulldogs turned around, looked at their own student section on the other side of the court and flailed their arms in a downward motion.
Most home crowds and student sections go silent when one of their own players lines up at the charity stripe, but that wasn’t the case on this free throw, which could have put the Bulldogs up three and given McClellan an additional free throw to virtually seal the game.
Instead, West York’s rowdy section of more than 100 students spent its energy screaming, banging and gesturing at Eastern York’s inferior – in size – group of students as one of Eastern’s fans was escorted off the court by a police officer.
The rest, well, may have been missed by West York’s disruptive student section.
McClellan, who led all scorers with 22 points and made several key 3-pointers, missed the free throw – which surely could have happened with or without his own student section’s unintentional obstruction.
Eastern head coach Justin Seitz then called a timeout, drew up a screen play for standout point guard Trevor Seitz and watched his son make a 3-pointer – aided by generous bounces off both the rim and the backboard – with 10 seconds left to lead the Golden Knights to a 59-58 win over undefeated West York.
“I wanted the ball in that situation,” said Trevor Seitz, who injured his right ankle in the third quarter and didn’t re-enter until the fourth quarter, when he was used mostly as a decoy. “Even though I hadn’t shot in a while, I was confident in myself, because I feel as if I’m one of the best shooters in the area. When I came off the ball hand off from Demonte (Martin), I shot it, had the lucky bounce a little bit, but that’s that shooter’s touch.”
A different atmosphere: West York head coach Garrett Bull didn’t give any credence to the student section’s effect on that free throw, adding that McClellan, who missed a layup right before the buzzer that would have won the game, kept the team in the game with his 15-point first half.
“When you’re at the line you don’t hear that,” Bull said. “As a coach I didn’t hear it. We were all on the other end. He didn’t hear that. That’s life. That’s basketball. Sometimes you make them, sometimes you miss them.”
Justin Seitz, meanwhile, said he wasn’t paying attention to the nonsensical student sections prior to the free throw, but he did notice West York players trying to tame the crowd that was louder at that moment than at any point during the game.
“That kid right there is probably one of the top two or three shooters in York County,” Justin Seitz said. “I didn’t expect him to miss at all. I would not say that had anything to do with it. If it did, thank you West York (student section) for whatever the reason it happened, but it put us in a situation to have an opportunity to win the game.”
Trevor Seitz’s big shot: Trevor Seitz, who was averaging 18.7 points a game entering the match-up, totaled 13 in the game. He scored 10 in the first half, but the floor general sprained his ankle early in the third quarter and was limping after the game.
“Once I started moving it around, the pain was going down,” Trevor Seitz said. “The trainer started doing some exercises, and I told her I could go back into the game. I needed to get back into this game.”
The Golden Knights ran the same play on the possession before Seitz’s game-winning 3, but Seitz instead passed to Martin, who found Bryce Henise for an open layup.
“We’re on the road, and we went for the win,” Justin Seitz said. “At home, we might play for the tie. This place was rocking…and we wanted to see if we could get a win and get out of here.”
Justin Seitz said the shot is further evidence of Trevor Seitz’s growth as the team’s leader in his junior season.
“He’s really grown and has gotten tougher,” Justin Seitz said. “This year was the first year he played football, and that made a difference. It kind of forced him into a leadership role.”
“I know he wants the ball,” said Bull. “He’s a competitor. He wanted the shot. I think it hit every part off the rim and the backboard, and it found a way to go in.”
Both teams start fast: West York (8-1, 3-1) and Eastern York (8-2, 4-1) both came out firing in the first quarter, combining to shoot 16 for 27 in the first eight minutes that concluded with the Golden Knights leading 18-17.
West York forward Gabe Mummert, who injured his back in the third quarter and missed the remainder of the game, scored 10 points in the first quarter and 14 in the game.
West York went on a 12-0 run in the second quarter, led by McClellan’s sharp shooting. The senior guard who averaged 19.4 points a game entering the contest scored 10 in the second quarter alone.
With Mummert out in the second half, West York’s Andrew LaManna filled in down low, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the last two periods. He was 6-of-7 shooting.
“He didn’t force it, and he let the game come to him,” Bull said. “In the second half, he was around the basket a little more where Gabe normally is. He did a nice job catching the ball around traffic and kept making a big bucket when we needed one.”
Eastern’s comeback: Eastern trailed 50-41 early in the fourth quarter, and the Golden Knights’ chances didn’t look good with Seitz hurt and Martin and Henise missing layups they normally make. Henise scored six points in the period, though, and Martin made his last three layups after missing eight straight shots to keep the game close. Henise scored 11 points, and Martin tallied 10.
“Demonte and Bryce missed some layups early and late in the game, but that two-to-three-minute stretch at the end when we needed them, they made huge plays and were working together,” said Justin Seitz.
Sharp shooter Stephen Wisler, who led the Golden Knights with 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting, made two crucial 3s in the second half, including one in the fourth quarter that prevented West York from gaining too much momentum.
Eastern is now half a game ahead of West York in the division, and in a three-way tie in the loss column with the Bulldogs and Dover (3-1).
“Coming into the game, we knew they were undefeated,” said Trevor Seitz. “We’re rivals. We wanted this game badly. These are the types of games that we’ll be playing in the county (playoffs), districts and states. Getting experience in this environment early will help us in the long run.”
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at email@example.com