HERSHEY – The York Country Day boys' basketball team has been nearly unstoppable all season long. Only a handful of times this year were the Greyhounds even behind at any point in a contest.
But a lot of that changed Friday night in the District 3-A boys' basketball championship contest against Greenwood at the Giant Center.
Coach Corey Stiles' team was sluggish at the outset, which contributed to a very slow start.
Conversely, the Wildcats were in high gear from the opening whistle.
But even playing, perhaps its worst half of the season was not enough to take down the YCD, who trailed by seven points early in the third quarter.
Led by junior standout DeAireus Brown, who scored 12 of his game-high 24 points during a 16-0 run midway through the third quarter, the Greyhounds rallied back to claim a 56-44 victory.
York Country Day improved to 22-0 on the season with the victory, which was the first District 3 title in school history.
“I never thought I'd be here," said Greyhound Jordan Ray, who finished with 17 points. "I never thought that we'd win a district championship. But we stuck together as a team.”
Ray gave a lot of praise to Brown, who transferred into the program from Northeastern this season, for bringing out his best.
“Let me tell you about DeAireus Brown," Ray said with a big smile. "He out-works me every practice. He's up there. In my opinion he's probably the best player in York County and at least top 10 in the state. That kid is amazing.”
He certainly was when his team needed him the most. The Wildcats (13-13) were doing everything they wanted for the early part of the game. They slowed down the speedy Greyhounds and they seemingly made all of their big shots, including a 6-of-9 performance from distance in the first half.
YCD continued to trail early in the third quarter before Stiles called, arguably, his most important timeout of the season. Like a switch, Stiles' team did all of the things that made it successful. The Greyhounds pressured the ball, grabbed rebounds and, most importantly of all, finished shots.
By the time Greenwood used a timeout with 1:10 left in the quarter, its 30-23 lead turned into a 39-30 deficit.
To no one's surprise in the YCD locker room, it was Brown who helped turn around the game. He scored the first 10 of a 16-0 run. Quickly the deficit was just a memory.
“Credit (Greenwood)," said Stiles, who won a District 3-AA title back in 2007 as a member of the York Catholic boys' basketball team. "They did everything that they wanted to do and we didn't do anything that we wanted to do. They dictated the speed of the game and what we want to do is speed it up. Obviously, what they want to do was to slow it down. They played perfect basketball over the first 16 minutes.”
“I can't explain it," said Brown. "It's becoming instinctive for me. I just do what I'm used to...what I've been doing since I was three (years-old).”
The advantage, which was 41-35 after three quarters, soon moved into the double digits as Brown and Ray started to put away the game. Slowly but surely, as the final minutes ticked off the clock, the Greyhound players, their coach and their small but loud fans began to celebrate a historic accomplishment.
Ray quickly bear-hugged his coach in a moment of utter bliss. Moments later, Stiles was giving out gold medals to his players, which are mementos of a history-making season that still has one last chapter.
"I'm definitely going to be wearing this a lot," Ray said with another big smile.
Stiles compared the thrill of winning a District 3 title as a player with winning a district title as a coach. To him, it was no comparison.
“Winning the gold as a coach is 100 times better," he said. "Don't get me wrong, when I won it as a player, it was surreal. It was awesome. But this feeling right now...I don't think it even compares to what I feel for those guys in (the locker room). They earned it. They deserved it. They deserve every bit of credit that they are about to get over the next couple of days saying that they're district champs. And now they can hold this forever.”
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com