York High head coach Clovis Gallon Sr. was scratching his head following the Bearcats' comeback win over New Oxford on Saturday.
Gallon Sr. was mystified because of the player who led the Bearcats' comeback.
It wasn't Clovis Gallon Jr. — the Bearcats' best player.
It wasn't Marquise McClean, who injured his hip last week and is expected to be out for the next few weeks.
It was sophomore Branden Mutunga, who scored nine points in the final quarter and secured the game-winning steal in York High's 46-43 win that clinched the Bearcats at least a share of the York-Adams League Division I title. The game was only Mutunga's second on varsity. He was pulled up from junior varsity last week after McClean was injured.
"The moment wasn't too big for him," Gallon Sr. said. "That's what I was most impressed with — that in the time where we needed to make plays, in a one-possession game, he was able to come up and do that. I'm proud of him."
"We just had to step up (for McClean)," Mutunga said. "He was putting up about 20 points and 10 rebounds. We all have to fill in."
Mutunga was just as surprised as Gallon Sr. was following the game.
"I wouldn't have ever thought that I'd be here today doing that," Mutunga said.
Mutunga, who didn't take a shot in the first three quarters, was 3 of 4 from the field and made all three free throws in a fourth quarter in which he outscored the Colonials 9-5. His nine points made him the Bearcats' leading scorer.
"When we scrimmage in practice, he's one of the best players on the floor all the time," Gallon Sr. said. "But he regressed a little as the season went on. Then Marquise went down, so we called him up. ... I knew going forward that we were going to find some time for him and that he was going to make some plays. Today he did that in the biggest moments."
D-I title: The win puts the Bearcats at 16-3 overall and 11-2 in Division I play, which is one game ahead of New Oxford (16-5, 11-3) in the loss column. The D-I title — whether the Bearcats share it with the Colonials or not — is York High's first since 2015. It's Gallon Sr.'s first since taking over in 2016.
"The first goal is checked off the list," Gallon Sr. said. "Now it's on to the next goal."
The Bearcats will have a chance to win the outright D-I title on Tuesday at South Western (2-17, 0-12).
Game recap: The start to the game at William Penn High School was the opposite of the first time the two squads faced off this season. A month ago, New Oxford started the game 8 of 9 from behind the arc to lead by 22 points in the first half. On Saturday, the Colonials were 3 of 16 from 3 in the first half.
York High, however, couldn't take advantage of New Oxford's shooting woes and the Colonials entered halftime with a 22-20 lead.
New Oxford then led for most of the second half, as York High struggled to score. The Colonials were able to slow down Gallon Jr., who scored 41 points in the first contest. Gallon Jr. didn't get many opportunities to score, and he totaled eight points and made 1 of 6 field goals.
"Brayden (Long) pestered him the whole game, face-guarded him whenever he didn't have the ball," Gallon Sr. said. "They did a great job. They were really physical with him off the ball. We (saw) that and decided that we're a team and that we're not going to base what we do off one player."
New Oxford, meanwhile, was led by Abdul Janneh, who scored 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting. Janneh scored 29 points in the Colonials' win over York High last month.
Mutunga's fourth quarter: Mutunga tied the score with 1:21 left in the game on a layup and then made the game-winning layup with 24 seconds remaining.
"He's crazy athletic," Gallon Sr. said. "He can dunk the ball left handed and right handed. He can play above the rim. He has good instincts off the ball defensively and he can guard four or five positions on the floor."
With eight seconds left and New Oxford down three points, Mutunga stole a pass to clinch the victory.
"We as a coaching staff, we're demanding of our players," said Gallon Sr. "When we see what you're capable of and what your ceiling is, that is our expectation. We aren't afraid to put pressure on our players. Going forward, he can expect to find time in varsity games, and he's going to have to produce."
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.