Current Eastern team mirrors 1960 squad
Don Hinkle can't help but see the glaring similarities between the Eastern York basketball team he was on in 1959-60 and this year's squad.
Aside from the comparable success that both teams had on the court, it's the style in which they win games that has Hinkle seeing double.
His 1959-60 team carried the nickname "The Comeback Kids" once it got to postseason play, constantly finding ways to claw its way back from late deficits and secure victories. It began in what was then called the York County Interscholastic Athletic Association championship game against Spring Grove. Hinkle's Golden Knights won the league title after rallying to down the Rockets and win the league championship.
That carried into the District 3 Class B playoffs when right off the bat, Eastern found itself in desperate need of a come-from-behind victory to keep its season alive.
"In the first game of the districts, we played Lampeter-Strasburg and beat them," Hinkle said. "Then, the next game, we played Kutztown, who was the defending state champs, we played them at the Hersheypark Arena and I don't know if we came back in that game, but I know we won the game."
While that 1959-60 team's winning magic ran out in the Class B gold medal game against Columbia, it still managed to shrink a sizable deficit down to one before a late turnover sealed the game for Columbia.
This year's Golden Knights team followed a similar path to its District 3-AAA silver medal as that team from 56 years ago.
After entering the district tournament as the No. 4 seed, Eastern parlayed a near first-round exit into a magical run. Facing an eight-point deficit at home to No. 13 Middletown in the first round, the Golden Knights furiously rallied to win by a point, living to see another day.
That comeback victory turned into another one-point, second-half comeback victory against ELCO in the quarterfinals and then a 13-point rally against top-seeded Milton Hershey in the semifinals to reach the gold medal game. However, much like that team from 1959-60, the comeback magic ran out in the title game, as this year's squad fell to No. 3 Bishop McDevitt and had to settle for a silver medal.
Back when Hinkle played, one loss in the postseason meant the end to your season. Only the district champions qualified for the state tournament, so the mentality that it took to regularly come back in games didn't so much have to do with believing that you could win, but rather, just doing anything not to lose and see your season end.
"I don't know if you know that you can comeback," he said. "I think it's the fact that you don't want to lose and you just keep the pedal to the metal and do what you have to do."
The only difference that Hinkle saw between his team and this year's team is that the 1960 team was filled with a bunch of seniors, while this year's Eastern squad is a mix of seniors, juniors and sophomores who all see the floor. Hinkle was one of the seniors on that team some 50-plus years ago, but finds himself just as invested in this year's group, primarily because his grandson, Carter Hinkle, is a 10th grader who plays on the JV team.
Hinkle still lives in the Eastern York area and attended games regularly this season, but couldn't make the games at the Giant Center last week due to health reasons. But, he still listened to the games on the radio and every time he the Golden Knights stormed back for a victory, it reminded him more and more of his own "Comeback Kid" days.
Eastern York will play its first round PIAA Class AAA state tournament game on Friday night against Imhotep Charter. That game is scheduled to tip at 7:30 p.m. at West York High School.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org