The last quarter of York High’s championship win against New Oxford on Friday night was emblematic of the Bearcats’ season.
It wasn’t always easy. The Bearcats entered the final period trailing 43-41.
It didn’t always go as planned. Clovis Gallon Jr., the Bearcats’ leading scorer, took zero shots in the fourth quarter, tallied two points on a pair of free throws to end his night with seven points.
It wasn’t always pretty. York High had six turnovers in the final eight minutes, including two that allowed the Colonials a chance to tie late in the game.
But it got the job done. York High outlasted New Oxford 54-50 at York College’s Charles Wolf Gymnasium to win the first York-Adams League boys’ basketball tournament championship.
“It feels really good,” said York High head coach Clovis Gallon Sr. about wearing the net around his neck. “These guys have worked really hard and prepared really hard for this game. … This game could’ve gone either way, and we made some plays in the fourth quarter that put us in position to win the game.”
Gallon Sr. said all eight players – Gallon Jr, Cameron Gallon, Edward Minter, Marquise McClean, Seth Bernstein, Branden Mutunga, Dayvon Cortez and Jaevon Woodyard – contributed to the win.
“You want everyone to feel like they’re a part of the team,” Gallon Sr. said. “In the third stage of our regular season coming into playoffs, everyone kind of really bought into what we were doing and believing in the system. We really came together as a team. Tonight, we needed that, and we came out on top.”
The championship is York High’s first since 2015, a year before head coach Clovis Gallon Sr. took over. Gallon Jr., the team’s best player and one of the best players in the Y-A League, said winning the title is something he’s “dreamed of my whole life.”
“I’ve been sitting in those stands, envisioning myself on that court, getting the gold medal and cutting the net down,” Gallon Jr. said. “This means so much to me.”
McClean returns to form: Three weeks ago, Marquise McClean fractured his hip against Harrisburg. He was initially told his season was over. But the diagnosis changed, and he returned for the league playoffs last week. He scored nine points against Dover in the quarterfinals and four against Littlestown in the semis, but he didn’t quite look like himself.
On Friday, he was the force that he was all season, when he was second on the team with 15 points per game. McClean led the Bearcats (20-3) with 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
“We didn’t feel like they had a true post defender, even though they’re so physical,” Gallon Sr. said. “We thought if we got some paint touches, we could take advantage of that, and Marquise did that tonight.”
McClean, a senior, said the injury has made him more grateful for his basketball career at York High.
“I decided I didn’t want to take any moment for granted,” McClean said. “I’m going to play every time 100 percent like it’s my last, because out at Harrisburg, I thought it was my last.”
New Oxford head coach Sean Bair said McClean is a “difference maker.”
“He’s the man. He’s so good,” Bair said. “He does so many different things well. The pressure he puts on your defense, physically, but also from an intellectual standpoint is hard (to defend).”
Physical, back-and-forth game: The first two match-ups between York High, the top seed from Division I, and New Oxford, the third-place squad from D-I, were both physical games, and Friday’s game wasn’t any different.
Neither the Bearcats nor the Colonials (17-6), who split those two contests that decided the D-I champion, led by more than six points at any moment. The largest lead was a six-point edge by York High in the second quarter, which was stifled by senior point guard Jaren Rex, who led the Colonials with 14 points, nailing two straight 3-pointers.
“I’m going to miss that kid so much,” Bair said. “He’s so steady.”
The Bearcats took a two-point lead into halftime, with the game’s two top players, Gallon Jr. and New Oxford’s Abdul Janneh, scoring five and zero points, respectively.
“The adjustment was to try to be physical with him off the ball, not allow him to establish position and when he catches, force him to his weak hand,” Gallon Sr. said. “Abdul is a great kid and a great athlete.”
Bair said he the way Brayden Long and the rest of his defense defended Gallon Jr., who only took three shots all game, gave the Colonials a chance to win.
“I’m going to roll the dice against the guys coming off the bench than a guy who I’ve seen beat everyone all year,” Bair said.
Janneh, however, emerged in the third quarter with 11 points to give the Colonials a brief 43-41 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Janneh fouls out: With 3:30 remaining and the Colonials trailing 48-44, Janneh then fouled out with about 3:30 remaining, forcing the Colonials to play the final minutes without their best player.
“We don’t do much without him,” Bair said. “It’s really tough without him (because) he plays so much, and he’s so central to what we do on both sides of the floor. … The fifth foul was 100 percent a foul. It stinks. It’s the nature of the game.”
Gallon Sr. said the Bearcats can alter the way the play defense when Janneh isn’t on the floor.
“He’s more of a post guy, and he can take advantage of mismatches. When he’s not on the floor, we feel like we can switch everything everywhere and really get to the shooters and close out,” Gallon Sr. said.
Wild final two minutes: The Bearcats turned the ball over twice in the final two minutes while up three points, though the Colonials couldn’t score either time. The final instance was with 13 seconds remaining, when Justin Gruver, who chipped in with nine points, took an open 30-footer that was well short.
“He’s a senior. He’s got 20-some 3s on the year. He’s open. I look at it like if he doesn’t shoot that, what shot are we going to get? It’s a clean look stepping into it,” Bair said. “We didn’t lose the game because he missed that shot.”
District playoffs: The Bearcats play at home in the first round of the District 3 Class 5-A playoffs against Gettysburg on Monday. Tip is set for 7 p.m. York High is the No. 3 seed in the tournament, while New Oxford is the No. 5 seed.
“I’m glad they’re on the other side of the bracket in districts,” Gallon Sr. said. “Hopefully we can see them in the finals and do this again on the Giant Center floor.”
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org