Eastern York basketball teams fall to Columbia in 'Battle of the Bridge'

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

WRIGHTSVILLE — It’s not every year that both the Eastern York and Columbia basketball teams enter their yearly grudge match as top programs in the area.

This year was definitely an exception, as both the Crimson Tide and Golden Knights feature squads on both sides that figure to be in contention for District 3 hardware next month.

Those stakes led to a packed house at Eastern York High School on Saturday evening as the teams competed in the ‘Battle of the Bridge’ — a moniker that reflects that the neighboring schools are separated by the Susquehanna River.

Coming off big wins earlier in the week, both the Golden Knights girls’ and boys’ basketball teams were savoring the chance to claim bragging rights away from the Crimson Tide, who completed a sweep a season ago in Columbia. Instead, it was the visitors that once again claimed the early momentum before hanging on for critical triumphs.

The Columbia boys survived a second-half surge by the Knights before escaping with a 66-61 victory. The Crimson Tide girls led pretty much wire-to-wire behind big games from the Droege sisters — Brooke and Brie — who combined for 40 points to lead Columbia to a 50-41 win.

Eastern York's Austin Bausman (24) against York Suburban during their boys basketball game in Wrightsville on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023.

The Eastern boys dropped just their second contest of the season to fell to 13-2 overall, while the Golden Knight girls are now 11-4.

“It was a great atmosphere for high school basketball,” Eastern York boys coach Justin Seitz said. “We had a bunch of games here that started at 12 o’clock. I think it was the type of atmosphere that both teams will be able to learn from.”

Raining triples: The Tide used a wrinkle that Seitz was not expecting throughout the nightcap of the basketball action Saturday — the 3-pointer. The Eastern coach scouted and watched film and noticed they only made a handful of shots from that distance this season.

That was not the case against the Knights, as the Columbia boys drained 10 triples, led by sophomore Ladarian Miller. Miller was not someone the Knights expected much from, as the bench player was thrust into more significant action after an injury to starter Daezjon Giles.

“They hit 10 3s against us,” Seitz said while shaking his head and looking at the scoresheet. “We didn’t adjust in-game to that and identify a couple of guys that got hot there, and they were able to stretch their lead.”

Keeping it close: Eastern, which trailed 35-30 at the half, quickly evened up the scoring early in the second half and stayed close throughout the third until a late spurt extended the Columbia advantage to nine, 54-45, by the end of the stanza.

The Knights continued to use the energy from their cheering section to rally back in the fourth. The hosts closed to within 60-57 with just over a minute remaining and again clawed to within 64-61 with 8.8 seconds left.

“We fought back and had it down to one possession,” Seitz said. “And I’m really proud of that, because these are the type of games that are going to prepare you for the postseason.”

With Jack Weaver sidelined due to injury, the Knights opted to play a big forward in Levi Ayala. Ayala finished with eight points but doesn’t have the same type of range as Weaver, who has 14 3-pointers on the season.

That allowed the Tide (14-1) to focus closer on standouts Austin Bausman and Carter Wamsley throughout the night. Both Golden Knight stars played great — Bausman led the way with 22 points, while Wamsley finished with 14.

“Obviously Austin and Carter have been so dominant for us all year,” Seitz said. “Levi stepped up and he’s playing big inside for us, but not having Jack takes a shooter off the floor for us, which really helps stretch the defense and gives us an advantage inside with Austin and Carter.”

Bausman scored half his points in the fourth quarter, including four straight free throws that closed the deficit from 64-57 to 64-61.

Seitz hopes that the setback will be a valuable lesson for his squad as they embark on a difficult stretch next week. The Knights have league tilts with Susquehannock and West York with a non-league clash at Octorara in between. The Warriors and Bulldogs are gunning for Eastern in the York-Adams Division II standings and both are currently slotted into the District 3 Class 5A playoff bracket. Octorara, from Chester County, is currently sitting at No. 6 in the 4A rankings, three spots behind the Knights.

“All of those teams would be in districts right now, so it’s a real, real tough stretch for us,” Seitz said. “So we have to get past this loss and find a way to get back and go 3-0 next week.”

Eastern York's Alaina Neal (1) against Bermudian Springs during their girls basketball game in Wrightsville on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022.

Sister act: Just a few days after a dominating effort that handed Northeastern its first loss in the division Wednesday, the Golden Knight girls struggled from the get-go against the Tide. The Droege sisters scored all 12 of the Crimson Tide’s points in the first period as the visitors raced out to a 12-3 advantage.

Columbia (12-3) continued to stretch the lead to as many as 20 before the Knights mounted a slight comeback. The home team scored 28 points in the second half — 15 more than they did in the first one — but the Tide were able to chew some clock while making shots of their own to close out the victory.

“Those two (Brooke and Brie Droege) are a handful,” Eastern York girls' coach Jason Seitz said. “And (Columbia coach) Karl (Kreiser) has been around and knows how to have his team ready for games like these.”

It was a struggle throughout for Eastern standout Arianna Seitz. After dropping 46 points in Wednesday’s victory over Northeastern, the Golden Knight junior finished with just 12 points in the setback against the Crimson Tide, who came into the night as the No. 3 team in the District 3 Class 3A power rankings.

“That’s a real good team over there,” Jason Seitz said of the Crimson Tide. “6A, 5A, 4A, 3A … they’re one of the best teams regardless of size. I hope we can take away some lessons from this to help us get better the rest of the year.”