BASKETBALL

York Suburban boys' basketball showing progress in rebuilding season

With no seniors in the lineup, the Trojans are still presenting a challenge to some of the league's older teams.

Thomas Kendziora
York Dispatch

In a York-Adams League filled with returning talent this basketball season, York Suburban’s boys are a youthful exception.

The Trojans’ lone returning starter this winter is a sophomore. Their five-man lineup for Wednesday’s game at Dallastown included two freshmen and two juniors alongside him. They’ve dealt with plenty of growing pains as a result.

But the signs of progress were on display in two daunting road tests this week.

York Suburban took undefeated Eastern York to the wire in a 43-40 York-Adams Division II road loss Tuesday, then played a tight game until late at D-I Dallastown on Wednesday, falling 58-50. The Trojans led at the half in both contests before coming up on the short end to drop their record to 4-9 (1-4 D-II).

Eastern York against York Suburban during their boys basketball game in Wrightsville on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023.

“I’m seeing improvement,” third-year head coach Mitch Kemp said Wednesday night. “Individually and as a team, we are absolutely improving. And the one phrase I continue to say to them is, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were absolutely laying bricks every hour.’ And that’s what we’re doing.”

Kai Stryhn, a 6-foot-2 sophomore forward, is the Trojans’ most experienced varsity player and leading scorer at 13.8 points per game (he scored 18 on Wednesday). CJ Rissmiller has manned the point guard spot as a freshman despite perhaps being a more natural off-ball guard. Luke Andricos, a 6-foot-5 junior, is in his first season as Suburban’s primary big man. Second-leading scorer Steven Agapis (6.8 ppg) was also a role player last season, while Kane Stryhn was in middle school.

York Suburban reached the District 3 Class 5A semifinals in Kemp’s first year, but point guard Camden Brewer left for a Virginia prep school that summer and Avant Sweeney, the Trojans’ leading scorer in 2021-22, didn’t return to the team this season. Without those two would-be seniors, a group of underclassmen and varsity rookies has slowly gained cohesiveness.

‘It’s honestly a credit to the kids. They’re buying into the philosophy, they’re playing together, they don’t care who gets the credit,” Kemp said. “And that’s the beauty of basketball — you don’t always have to have the highest skill set. If you execute a game plan and play together … you can still have success.”

York Suburban's Luke Andricos (33) against Eastern York during their boys basketball game in Wrightsville on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023.

On Tuesday, York Suburban’s defense shut out Eastern York in the second quarter to give the Trojans a 15-10 lead at the break. Kemp’s team trailed 32-27 through three periods but reclaimed the lead in the final frame. The score was level with just over a minute left before the Golden Knights pulled ahead on a putback layup and held on to stay unbeaten.

Dallastown needed a heroic performance from DJ Smith on Wednesday, as the senior point guard scored 17 points in the third quarter alone to help flip the Wildcats’ 28-24 halftime deficit into a 44-38 advantage. Smith finished with 31, all in the first three frames, and his Dallastown teammates kept the Trojans at arm’s length down the stretch.

York Suburban closes the first half of its division schedule at home against Dover (1-12, 0-5) on Friday, then has three more D-II games next week (vs. West York, at Kennard-Dale, at Susquehannock). As the Trojans’ rebuild continues, the coming weeks offer a chance to show how bright the future could be.

Eastern York against York Suburban during their boys basketball game in Wrightsville on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023.

“I think the biggest thing is experience. You can’t teach experience, you’ve just got to live through it,” Kemp said. “So the more we battle through that adversity, the more we stick together, I think we’re gonna come out on the end differently.”

Wildcats’ winding road: Dallastown improved to 5-6 with the victory as head coach Mike Grassel’s team continues to search for consistency. The Wildcats have at times looked the part of a Division I contender, losing to the top two of Central York and York High by a combined four points. But Tuesday’s 62-53 loss at Northeastern dropped them to 2-3 in the division, and a slew of narrow defeats has the Wildcats climbing uphill for a District 3 Class 6A playoff spot.

Smith, a D-I first team all-star last season, has led the way with 16.1 points per contest. And the athleticism of the core group is unquestioned — Kenny Johnson is a Pitt wide receiver signee, Michael Scott is a budding football prospect himself and Conner Barto (11.3 ppg) is the reigning D-I Player of the Year in baseball. But the relative lack of year-round basketball players can be a hindrance in pivotal moments, and it hasn’t helped that senior guard Maliki Chambers went down injured in the second game of the season.

DJ Smith- Dallastown basketball- at the Winter sports for the 2022-2023 season preview day 2 photos in York on Nov.10, 2022.

Grassel hopes Wednesday’s second half can provide a spark ahead of a tough stretch. Dallastown hosts Susquehannock in another cross-divisional game Friday, then battles York High, Central York and Red Lion in three crucial D-I tilts next week.

“Every team’s got to learn … you can’t just walk in the gym and expect to win,” Grassel said. “We have a lot of talent on this team, I thought we played well together tonight and we hit a few shots, and that makes a lot of things look great.”