STROHECKER: Future of York County hoops on display in Keystone gold medal game
AAU basketball teams travel all over the place so the players can showcase their abilities to college scouts.
There may not have been a whole lot of college scouts at the Keystone State Games this weekend in York, but, there was still some showcasing going on. For fans who made their way to the Grumbacher Sports and Fitness Center on the campus of York College on Sunday, what they did see was the future of the York County scholastic basketball scene on full display.
Playing in the gold medal game in the boys' ninth- and 10th-grade division were two teams from the area, the Pennsylvania Rens and the York Raiders. Both squads were filled primarily with players who attend York County schools.
So, it was a chance for them to put on a show for local spectators.
The championship game got out of hand quickly, with the much more established Raiders program proving to be too much to handle for the newer Rens squad. York's push-the-ball offense created easy bucket after easy bucket, while its in-your-face defense caused enough turnovers in transition that Pennsylvania could never seriously mount a run. In the end, the lopsided 68-46 victory for the Raiders may have been the lasting image on the scoreboard, but the run in the tournament and the opportunity to play in the final for the Rens was more important than the final result.
"This was just another opportunity," said Sam Sutton, the head coach and program director of the Rens. "We're a developmental-based program where we really focus on our players developing. This is just a vehicle that we come to, to test out the stuff that we're working on."
Sure, winning it all would have added to the Keystone State Games experience, but it also didn't help matters that standing on the other side from the Pennsylvania team was a York team full of familiar faces.
Anytime you get two local teams playing against each other, there's bound to be a familiarity aspect that comes into play. In this game's case, it wasn't just the fact that so many of the players will play against each other come the high school season, but there were also a few kids playing on the Raiders this weekend who also play for the Rens. That's just the way things happen.
But, one team's tough luck is another team's good fortune. And in the case of York, Sunday's win was also the continuation of a feel-good summer.
Bouncing back strong: Back in mid-April, when Elevate Basketball Circuit president David Kelly abruptly shut down the multi-state, multi-event showcase circuit, hundreds of teams were affected and out thousands of dollars. The Raiders were one of them. The exact circumstances of what happened hasn't been fully determined yet, but in the end, hundreds of teams and thousands of scholastic-aged players lost out on a chance to shine in front of college scouts.
The York team, however, didn't let the missed opportunities affect it. Instead, the Raiders bounced back, going 33-1 in showcase tournaments this summer, and that now includes the program's first Keystone State Games gold medal.
"York County basketball is strong because of York Raiders and York Ballers AAU program," Raiders coach Rodney Washington said. "They produce a lot of Division I, Division II and Division III players and, as a whole, York County basketball is strong. We can compete with anybody."
This weekend was the first time that the Keystone State Games returned to York County since 2010, so what better way to cap off its basketball competition than with two of the area's teams squaring off. And with many of the kids about to begin high school or entering their second year of it, this was a chance for the locals to see the future of the high school game.
Lastly, for the players, there may not have been college coaches watching, but they still had a chance to showcase their skills in their own backyard.
It can't get much better than that.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com; follow on Twitter @P_Strohecker