BASKETBALL

York-Adams League girls' basketball preview: Several teams look to take next step

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

The 2022-23 York-Adams League girls' basketball season tips off Friday, and 12 of the association's 21 teams are in action on the opening weekend for winter sports.

Among the notable tipoff tournament matchups on Friday night, reigning PIAA Class 5A quarterfinalist West York hosts Division III champion Delone Catholic, while defending league tournament champion Bermudian Springs plays New Oxford on the road. Defending Division I champion Dallastown battles Hempfield in a tournament at Cumberland Valley, while a talented Central York team plays Central Dauphin at Penn Manor.

Red Lion, Northeastern and Fairfield are also competing in tipoff tournaments this weekend, as is non-league member York Tech. Spring Grove visits Mechanicsburg in a non-tournament opening game Friday, while York High and Hanover begin their seasons on the road Saturday. Division II champion Eastern York and talented squads from York Suburban and York Catholic are among the teams who officially open the winter next week.

More:Inexperienced Delone Catholic girls' basketball team ready to start a new era

York-Adams League basketball preview: Players to watch in 2022-23

With every team still unbeaten, each coach is optimistic for one reason or another. Here's a look at a quartet of teams who could contend in their divisions and make some noise come playoff time.

Dallastown's Maggie Groh gets past South Western's Liv Sell during action at Dallastown Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. Dallastown took the win 39-30. Bill Kalina photo

DEEP DALLASTOWN

The Wildcats have been perennial contenders under coach Jay Rexroth. This year figures to be much the same.

Despite the loss to graduation of leading scorer D’Shantae Edwards (13.1 ppg) and sharpshooter Liv Stein (7.1 ppg, 44 made 3-pointers), the Dallastown girls (21-6, 13-1 D-I last year) will rely on a bevy of experience paired with an intense defense to grind through contests this season.

“We are excited to see how our team comes together this season,” Rexroth said. “We have a nice mix of a strong and talented senior class with some talented underclassmen. We definitely will be a work in progress early in the season as we continue to develop our team chemistry. The short preseason (just nine practices and two scrimmages) before our first game will make coming together quickly even more important than ever.”

Rexroth expects some pieces to move around from where they left off a season ago, but has confidence that his girls will adapt. Some of those keys include seniors Haley Jamison, Maggie Groh, McKenna Kelley, Abby Zeigler and Ainsley Ellis as well as juniors Kiara McNealy and Ally Snyder. Praise Matthews, who scored 5.7 ppg as a freshman last year, headlines the sophomore class along with Harper Poff, Campbell O’Neill and Natalie Good. Rexroth is also high on freshman Ava Jamison's ability to provide a spark off the bench.

“We have several players that contributed on the varsity level from last season (back) and their roles will change somewhat this season,” Rexroth said. “But we expect them to step up and fill those new roles.”

BEARCATS CLAW FORWARD

It’s hard to believe that Kevin Glover is now entering his fifth season at the helm of the York High program. Through his first four seasons, Glover has not enjoyed the level of success he had during his brief stint at Dover, but the seeds of his labor with the Bearcats may soon be paying dividends on the court.

Glover will have four of his five starters back from last year’s club that finished with a 9-12 record overall and a 4-10 mark in Division I.

“I am excited to continue to build upon the foundation that we set at the start of our rebuilding phase of the program,” Glover said. “When I applied for the job I knew that it was, at a minimum, a five-year plan to get stability and here, in my fifth season, we're looking to be more competitive and win some more games. We will continue to work hard on being better defensively and just being consistent with our overall play each practice and game.”

A team’s win/loss record may not be the best barometer of just how much growth a program has taken over the years. While the Bearcats have not yet achieved a winning record under Glover, last year's team gave Central York, Dallastown and Spring Grove all tough battles during the regular season. The Panthers had to fight hard in a 47-41 victory, while the eventual D-I champion Wildcats survived a low-scoring 35-28 scrum. Glover’s squad also notched a satisfying win over Spring Grove by a 54-50 margin late in the season.

“We have some things to build on, as we return four players from last year's starting lineup as well as some new young players who will be logging some minutes for us,” Glover said. “Going 9-12 while losing (several) games by seven points or less last season definitely left a bad taste in our mouths. Hopefully we can figure out a way to get over the hump in those close games.”

The Bearcats will return their top three scorers from last year in junior Zykira McGee (11.2 ppg), junior Ciarra Gibbs (11.0 ppg) and sophomore Jayda Price (8.9 ppg). Price led the team with 25 made 3-pointers as a freshman while McGee added 17.

York Suburban's Lydia Powers, left, works to get around Eastern York's Breana Grim during girls' basketball action at Eastern York High School in Lower Windsor Township, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. Eastern York would win the game 54-16. Dawn J. Sagert photo

BACK IN BATTLE

After a season that was filled with adversity due to various injuries, the York Suburban girls are eager take a step up the Division II ladder this season. While a number of teams would be satisfied with a 13-9 record overall (5-7 D-II), the Trojans aim much high than that on a yearly basis under coach Jess Weaver, who enters her 11th season on the bench.

Optimism is abound for York Suburban with a trio of standouts back in tow. That includes senior Alyssa Dougherty, who played in just three games before suffering a season-ending knee injury. The other two include Janay Rissmiller, who led the team with 13.6 ppg as a sophomore, as well as junior Lydia Powers (7.2 ppg).

“We enter the season with big expectations,” Weaver said. “We hope to contend for a Division II title as well as play into districts and states. After a year of adversity due to injuries, this year’s team has been battle-tested and brings back experience in overcoming tough situations. I think this could prove to be the deepest in a long time and possibly the hungriest (during my tenure).”

The Trojans visit South Western for a scrimmage Friday night, and they officially begin their season at the Middletown tipoff tournament next weekend.

York Catholic's Paige O'Brien reaches for a rebound with Conwell-Egan's Kyliyah Carmichael gaining possession in a PIAA Class 3-A girls' basketball first-round state playoff game at York Catholic Tuesday, March 8, 2022. York Catholic would lose 52-46. Bill Kalina photo

IRISH REVENGE?

After many, many years of domination throughout the York-Adams League, District 3 and PIAA, the York Catholic girls’ basketball team has taken a backseat of sorts to parochial rival Delone Catholic over the past four years.

While the Irish have enjoyed success under the shadow of the Squirettes, this could be the season where the YC girls reclaim the mantle as the top private school in the league once more.

York Catholic (12-14 overall, 8-4 Division III) may still lack the prolific scorers that have highlighted championship squads over the past two decades, but the talent is there to become a squad many teams could fear come February.

“This year's team consists of numerous returning players from (our) JV and varsity squads last year,” Irish coach Kevin Bankos said. “We are confident the experience they gained playing a very competitive schedule last year, prepares them for another year of tough competition. The team culture is very good and they are a very unselfish group of players. It is very easy to come to practice and coach them because of the culture of the team. We look forward to competing in a very challenging schedule again this year.”

You can count Delone coach Gerry Eckenrode as one who is high on the Irish this preseason. Bankos, who has coached the Irish to three PIAA Class 2A championships and 11 District 3 titles during his 16-year reign over the program, is good friends with Eckenrode both on and off the court, and neither is afraid to speak truthfully about the other’s squad.

“I would think Kevin’s got a really solid team coming back,” Eckenrode said. “I think that they would be the odds-on favorite (to win the division) just based on their experience.”

Both Delone and reigning York-Adams tournament champion Bermudian Springs lost a slew of talent to graduation after last year’s success. That differs from the Irish, who return point guard Mariah Shue along with Paige O’Brien and Amanda Reed, to name a few.

York Catholic starts its season at home against Camp Hill on Friday, Dec. 9.