In what felt like the blink of an eye, the 2015-16 York-Adams League basketball regular season has come and gone.
With that, we now head into the league tournament. The top eight boys' and girls' teams will begin their quests to earn league titles this weekend, needing three victories over the course of seven days to secure the honor.
Any time you have a league tournament, you're sure to wind up with several intriguing match-ups. This year is no different. Here's a look at each of the eight quarterfinal showdowns in both the boys' and girls' brackets.
Central York (12-0 Division I, 18-2 overall) vs. West York (9-5 Division II, 12-7), at Red Lion, Friday, 7:30 p.m.: The Panthers did the unthinkable and ran the table in the always-difficult Division I.
That included sweeping the season series against a Spring Grove program that is having one of its best seasons in nearly a generation. The Panthers also went 2-0 vs. a York High team that isn't quite as strong as previous years, but still very talented. Led by Jared Wagner, who's averaging 18.6 points per game, Central York currently holds down the top spot in the latest District 3-AAAA power ratings.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, had to overcome a slow start to work their way back into contention for a playoff berth, ultimately clinching the No. 3 seed out of Division II with a win on Monday night against Gettysburg. Senior Darian McCauley leads the Bulldogs in scoring, averaging 15.6 points per game, and is coming off a 25-point effort in the win over the Warriors. This will be the first meeting between the two schools this season, after their previously scheduled meeting on Jan. 25 got canceled because of the snowstorm.
Predicted winner: Central York.
York Catholic (14-0 Division III, 17-4 overall) vs. Eastern York (11-3 Division II, 18-4 overall), at Red Lion, Friday, 6 p.m.: Under first-year head coach Blaine Claiborne, the Fighting Irish found the winning ways of yesteryear, going unbeaten in Division III and more than holding their own in a few of their non-league games vs power teams.
The preseason additions of transfers Melik Martin and D'Andre Davis from York High proved to be huge, with the duo combining to average 27.5 points per game. As for the Golden Knights, credit them for at least giving Northeastern a run for its money to clinch the Division II crown. However, Eastern fell short and has to settle as Division II's No. 2 seed. Senior Broguen Nicholas averaged 17.4 points per game this year, but don't sleep on Jared Achterberg, who also averaged 12.1 per contest.
This has the makings of one of the best quarterfinal games. The Fighting Irish enter with the second-best scoring offense in the league (69.7 ppg), while the Golden Knights have the seventh-ranked scoring defense, allowing 51.8 ppg.
"I think with our experience over the course of the season playing against some teams that can really, really, really get up and down the floor, we can play at that level, or we can play a slow-down game," Eastern head coach Jon Reichard said. "We can play in the half court at times, so, really, it's not the style of play that concerns me, as something that will sneak up and surprise us."
Predicted winner: Eastern York.
Spring Grove (10-2 Division I, 19-2 overall) vs. Hanover (11-3 Division III, 16-6 overall), at West York, Friday, 6 p.m.: This type of season was only a matter of time for the Rockets, who have been on an up swing since James Brooks took over the reigns of the varsity team before the start of the 2013-14 season.
Coincidentally, that's also the time when his son, Eli, came into the program as a freshman. Eli has become the most electrifying player in the league and, arguably, District 3. Brooks led the league in scoring at 25.2 points per game, but when you couple that with senior Darin Gordon's 14.9 average, you have the best scoring duo in the league. Spring Grove's only two defeats came to Central York this season, both by 53-50 results.
The Nighthawks, meanwhile, enter as the No. 2 seed from Division III, after losing twice to York Catholic and once to Littlestown. It'll be worth watching to see how Hanover keeps up with the Rockets, but, if nothing else, it'll be a show to see senior Kyle Krout go shot-for-shot with Brooks. Krout enters just behind Brooks in scoring, averaging 22.4 points per game.
"We don't really pick one particular kid out," James Brooks said about slowing Krout. "We just stop a style, and the way we play is help defense, and that's what we'll continue to do. So, I don't make any changes for one particular player."
Predicted winner: Spring Grove.
Northeastern (14-0 Division II, 20-1 overall) vs. York High (8-4 Division I, 12-9 overall), at West York, Friday, 7:30 p.m.: Oh, what a fun one this should be.
If you recall, the only blemish on the Bobcats' record came from a road defeat at the hands of the Bearcats back on Dec. 23. Other than that, Northeastern has very much looked the part of being one of the best teams in not only the league, but all of District 3, proven by its No. 3 ranking in the latest Class AAAA power ratings. The Bobcats are also the highest-scoring offense in the league, putting up 75.5 points per game.
As for York High, well, this season hasn't played out like a typical one under head coach Troy Sowers. The nine losses already match the second most that any of his teams have suffered in a season in his 10 years at the helm. However, if there's one thing his teams are known for, it's getting up for big games and peaking at the perfect time, and this year's club also knows how to knock off Northeastern. This could very well be the game of the quarterfinals on either side.
Predicted winner: York High.
Red Lion (11-1 Division I, 20-2 overall) vs. West York (10-4 Division II, 14-7 overall), at Dover, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.:
There isn't anything flashy about the Lions, but they win games and that's all that matters.
They don't have one singular player who can light up the scoreboard, although Courtney Dimoff is one of the league's top players, nor do they put up loads and loads of points. But, what Red Lion does do extremely well is hold its opponents at bay, allowing 34.2 points per game, third in the league. That formula won the Lions the Division I title and has them currently ranked third in the latest District 3-AAAA power ratings.
It should also bode well going up against a Bulldogs team that is averaging just 47.3 points per game.
Predicted winner: Red Lion.
Delone Catholic (11-1 Division III, 16-5 overall) vs. York Suburban (12-2 Division II, 17-4 overall), at Dover, Saturday, 6 p.m.: Despite being co-champions of Division III with York Catholic, the Squirettes earned the division's No. 1 seed by virtue of a coin flip.
That means they get a slightly easier opening-round game against the Trojans, but not by much. This will be a pure match-up of great offense vs. great defense, with Delone entering as the No. 1 ranked scoring team in the Y-A League, averaging 55 points per game. However, the Squirettes will have their work cut out for them going up against a stingy Suburban defense, which held opponents to just 33.7 points per game, good for second in the league.
Predicted winner: Delone Catholic.
Central York (10-2 Division I, 20-2 overall) vs. York Catholic (11-1 Division III, 18-4 overall), at Dallastown, Saturday, 6 p.m.: This might be the match to see in the girls' quarterfinal bracket.
The Panthers missed out on winning the Division I title by a game to Red Lion. They're still a force, though, coming in ranked just behind the Lions in the District 3-AAAA power ratings at No. 4. These two teams also rank second and third in the Y-A League in scoring offense, with Central (54.8 ppg) holding a slim margin over the Fighting Irish (54.5 ppg). These two teams squared off earlier in the season and it was the Panthers getting the better of York Catholic, 55-37.
This game will feature the league's leading scorer in the Fighting Irish's Kate Bauhof, who's averaging 19.6 points per game. York Catholic will need every single one of those points and then some if it wants to move into the semifinals.
"The thing you always know about York Catholic is that they're extremely well-coached and used to playing in a playoff atmosphere," Central head coach Scott Wisner said. "So, I always expect them to perform well. ... I do expect it to be a very good contest and would expect nothing less from a very good team."
Predicted winner: Central York.
Susquehannock (14-0 Division II, 20-2 overall) vs. York High (7-5 Division I, 14-8 overall), at Dallastown, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.: The Warriors went unbeaten in Division II and enter the league tournament riding an 11-game winning streak.
Like Red Lion, Susquehannock doesn't have one standout star, but rather, a solid collection of players who work extremely well together as a team. That mold helped the Warriors all the way up to No. 4 in the District 3-AAA power ratings and could make them the dark horse underdog to claim the Y-A title.
Moving on to the Bearcats, they were a feel-good story for this season. It's been well over a decade since the York High girls' team last qualified for the playoffs, but this year's group finally ended that drought. Led by the league's second-leading scorer, Chyna Steele (18.3 ppg), the Bearcats doubled their win total from a year ago, making their turnaround the most impressive in the league.
Predicted winner: Susquehannock.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org