League favorites in the home stretch

Patrick Strohecker

And down the stretch they come.

Nathan Markey is one of the senior leaders on the Central York boys' basketball team.

It's hard to fathom that we're already in the final month — actually, it's even less than that — of the 2015-16 York-Adams League basketball regular season. We tend to lose track of time with how quickly the season can come and go when teams are playing up to three or four games per week, condensing a 20-plus-game schedule into two months.

Before the season began, I broke down the three divisions in the boys' basketball race, pointing out teams and players to watch and ultimately predicted who I felt was best suited to capture each of the three division titles. Well, now with over half the season in the books, it's time to reassess those preseason predictions and take a look at where certain teams stand and who's in the best position to win the three division titles and have a shot at winning the league crown.

Division I: If you recall, in the preseason, I picked York High to win this division.

Hard to go against the two-time defending District 3-AAAA champions and a program that routinely wins upwards of 25 games per season. But, the beginning to this season hasn't been pleasant for the Bearcats, as they sit at 8-6 overall and just 5-2 in Division I action. However, that's not necessarily a product of an average team, but, rather, speaks to the level of competition that head coach Troy Sowers lined up for his team in the hopes that it will prepare York High for postseason competition.

But, the two losses in league play, one at home to Spring Grove and the other an overtime road defeat to Central York doesn't bode well for a late-season push to win the title. The Rockets and Panthers are the two teams ahead of the Bearcats in the Division I standings, with Central York sitting at a tidy 12-2 overall and 7-0 in league play. Jared Wagner's elevated play this year has made him one of the best players in the league and is a huge reason why the Panthers are where they are.

Right now, Central is in the driver's seat to win Division I, but with two road games at Spring Grove and York High still remaining, it isn't a forgone conclusion that it'll be there come the end of the regular season.

Northeastern's Kobi Nwandu scored a game-high 14 points in the Bobcats' 76-47 thrashing of York High in the quarterfinals of the York-Adams League playoffs. Northeastern will face Spring Grove in Tuesday's semifinals.

Division II: I expected this to be a two-team race at the beginning of the year, but as it turns out, there was only one true horse in it.

My prediction was that West York and Northeastern would be co-Division II champions, much to the chagrin of Bobcat students and fans. Well, they were right. Their team was the obvious choice, as Northeastern has raced out to an 11-1 record overall and 7-0 in league play. Their only loss was on the road two days before Christmas against York High. Even in that game, they managed to erase a 23-point deficit and get it down to three by the fourth quarter, but just ran out of steam.

The next closest team to Northeastern in the Division II standings is Eastern York at 9-3 overall and 6-2 in league competition, so the Bobcats have a decent cushion to work with coming down the stretch. And let's be honest, even if the Bobcats were, at worst, tied for the Division II lead, they'd still be the odds on favorite to capture the title by season's end. Northeastern might be the most talented team in the Y-A League and certainly the most offensively explosive, leading the league in scoring at nearly 80 points per game.

York Catholic's Joe Bauhoff goes up for a layup against Bethlehem Catholic earlier this season. The Fighting Irish have a slim lead in the Division III standings with about three weeks to play. (John A. Pavoncello - The York Dispatch)

Division III: This race was seemingly up for grabs at the beginning of the year, but based on results so far, one team has really stood out amongst the rest.

York Catholic, under first-year head coach Blaine Claiborne, has ripped off a 9-3 start to the season and a perfect 8-0 mark in league competition. That perfect league mark also includes a road victory over Hanover, the only league loss the Nighthawks have suffered thus far.

Claiborne, a member of the Fighting Irish's state championship team in the early 1990's, has the program back to playing basketball at the level it was played when he was there and it's shown so far. Realistically, York Catholic only has two really tough games to finish out its schedule, one coming this Saturday when it faces the Bearcats on the road and then on Jan. 29, the second-to-last game of the season when it'll host Hanover in a rematch of their earlier clash.

The Fighting Irish and Nighthawks are the only two teams in Division III with winning overall records, so that game on Jan. 29 could decide who the Division III champion is. And right now, it doesn't hurt to be York Catholic with that one-game cushion and a head-to-head victory over Hanover already in its back pocket.

So, that's where we stand heading into the final few weeks of the regular season.

It will no doubt produce some great drama down the stretch and I can't think of anyone who would have it any other way.

— Reach Patrick Strohecker at pstrohecker@yorkdispatch.com