BASKETBALL

Six big questions as York-Adams League basketball enters the stretch run

Thomas Kendziora
York Dispatch

The York-Adams League basketball season has reached the second wave of division games, signifying the beginning of the stretch run before the playoffs. And this week is especially jam-packed, with the second round robin beginning Monday and continuing Wednesday and Friday.

Each division across the league saw one team go undefeated against its peers in the first go-round, save for one where two teams still haven’t played each other yet. (A handful of games wiped out just before Christmas have yet to be made up.) Don’t expect things to finish that way, though — in a league with plenty of well-coached squads and raucous home environments, fortunes can quickly turn south.

“It’s high school sports,” Dallastown boys’ hoops coach Mike Grassel said. “I’ve seen a lot of crazy things, and you never know what’s going to happen.” 

Only Central York’s girls have reached this point of the season undefeated overall; the Panthers improved to 7-0 in D-I and 14-0 overall with Monday’s 46-39 win over Red Lion. It’s been an emotional week for the program, as longtime head coach Scott Wisner has been hospitalized with a brain mass and the team has taken the floor twice without him. In the face of uncertainty, though, a senior-heavy squad has continued to win.

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While the biggest questions surrounding the league right now may be off the court, there are plenty of intriguing storylines to follow as the games continue this week. Here’s a look at what to watch for as division races heat up.

York High's Julez Tucker (2) against Northeastern during their boys basketball game in York on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022.

Can York High’s boys take the rematch against Central York?

The Panthers and Bearcats have emerged from a dense Division I pack, with Central finishing the first round robin 6-0, York High following at 5-1 and no other teams better than 3-3. The Panthers, though, have had to fight for their wins. Four of those first six games were decided by four points or fewer — one went to double-overtime — and a fifth was close in the fourth quarter as well. 

Spring Grove'S Kayleb Allen (22) against Central York'S Ben Rill (13) during their boys basketball game in Spring Grove on Thursday Dec. 22, 2022.

York High jumped out to an early lead in these teams’ first meeting on Dec. 20, but Central York battled back and pulled ahead in the fourth quarter, ultimately winning 68-65. That was the Panthers’ first game without senior guard Ethan Dodson, who hopes to return sometime around the start of the playoffs. But the Bearcats also believe they might have maintained the lead longer had they not battled foul trouble in the frontcourt.

The sequel is set for Friday at York High, and both teams will be eager to make a statement. If this game is anything like the first one, fans are in for a treat.

How does the girls’ second tier shake out in Division I?

Behind 7-0 Central York, there’s at least a three-way race for second following York High’s 41-36 win Monday over Dallastown. The Bearcats had started 0-3 in the division but have flipped that in just seven days and now sit at 4-3. The Wildcats are still a half-game ahead at 4-2 with a makeup date against last-place South Western to be tacked on at the end of the year. Red Lion is also 4-3 but doesn’t have to play the first-place Panthers again.

York High vs. Dallastown during girls’ basketball action at Dallastown Area High School in York Township, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022. Dallastown would win the game 39-29. Dawn J. Sagert photo

This week will continue to offer plenty of answers. Dallastown hosts Central York and York High visits Red Lion on Wednesday. Then the Bearcats visit the Panthers and the Lions take on the Wildcats in Friday’s action. The trio could be in any order by this weekend, and there’s even a chance Spring Grove (4-11, 3-4) sneaks into the mix with opportunities against the top teams still to come.

Does a third boys’ team emerge in Division II?

Eastern York was the last unbeaten boys’ team in the association, reaching 12-0 before stumbling against Berlin-Brothers Valley at the Hoops for Harmony showcase at Chambersburg on Saturday. The Golden Knights are still 6-0 in their division, though, half a game ahead of West York (6-1) thanks to a 60-44 road win Jan. 6.

Susquehannock against West York during their boys basketball game in Glen Rock on Friday, Oct. 16, 2022.

Meanwhile, two games separate third and sixth place in this division. Kennard-Dale (4-3) now holds the third spot after a 46-44 win over Susquehannock (3-3), which had beaten the Rams twice in December. It’s been mostly close contests between those two, New Oxford (2-4) and York Suburban (2-5) thus far. Perhaps the group will remain tightly bunched, or perhaps someone will break from the pack and secure a grip on the division’s third YAIAA tournament berth.

How far can Northeastern’s girls go?

It was hard to know what to expect from the Bobcats this season. Northeastern went 5-9 in Division I and 9-14 overall last year, and dropping down to D-II added another layer of unfamiliarity. But first-year coach Moe Coleman’s team made a statement Dec. 16 by topping reigning division champion Eastern York, and the Bobcats have kept it going en route to a 6-0 record (12-2 overall).

Northeastern's Mikayla Coleman (3) against York Suburban's Alyssa Dougherty (11) during their girls basketball game in Spring Garden on Friday Jan.6, 2023.

Much like Central York’s boys, many of the wins have been close — Northeastern trailed through three quarters against Eastern (4-2 D-II) and has battled to the wire with York Suburban (5-2), Susquehannock (4-2) and West York (3-4). Any of those teams could pose a threat the second time around, and the Golden Knights will get the first chance at revenge Wednesday in Wrightsville.

Can York Catholic’s boys get to full strength?

The Fighting Irish knew for years that this could be a special season, as they returned five senior starters who had contributed to division and district titles together. And the ceiling remains high for York Catholic, which thumped Fairfield on Monday to reach 9-4 (7-1 Division III). But the Irish have gone through most of the season without Luke Forjan, the reigning Player of the Year and top scorer in the entire division.

York Catholic's Luke Forjan, left, takes the ball to the basket while Troy's Lance Heasley defends during PIAA boys' first round basketball action at York Catholic High School in York City, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. York Catholic would win the game 70-43. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Forjan suffered a knee injury against Columbia on Dec. 9 and still hasn’t returned, but there’s hope that he’ll be back for the Jan. 31 home rematch against Littlestown, which took solo first place in D-III last Tuesday with a 52-41 home win. While York Catholic still has an impressive rotation and sophomore Jake Dallas has emerged as one of the league’s top scorers (17.2 ppg), Forjan’s return could make the Irish a contender for championships when it matters.

What happens when the girls’ D-III leaders finally square off?

Delone Catholic and York Catholic both improved to 6-0 in Division III with blowout wins Monday over Biglerville and Fairfield, respectively. The reigning District 3 Class 4A champion Squirettes have taken no steps back with a retooled roster, as they enter Wednesday’s game at Littlestown 14-1 overall. The Irish brought plenty of experience into this season, and while they’ve looked shaky at times against bigger powerhouses, they’ve handled business in the division.

These teams were set to share the floor Dec. 23, right before the holiday break, but the game was postponed due to subfreezing temperatures in the area. Several other league contests scheduled for that night have since been made up, but this one was instead shifted to the very end of the regular season on Feb. 6. 

The long-awaited first meeting will come next Tuesday in McSherrystown.