There's something special to be said about a team that can get to this point in the basketball season and still be undefeated.
It takes a unique set of circumstances for everything to perfectly fall into place. Little to no injuries. The whole team buying into a plan. And, most importantly, the talent.
The York Country Day boys' team had all of those this season, and up until Tuesday night, was 23-0. Yet, it's that unparalleled success that also can lead to the biggest disappointment when, in a win-or-go-home game, you lose for the first time all year and it signifies the end of your dream season.
The Greyhounds felt that on Tuesday night.
YCD (23-1) was finally tasked with facing a team that not only matched the Greyhounds in size, speed and strength, but was even bigger and faster. The predictable result was a loss in the second round of the PIAA Class A boys' basketball tournament to Phil-Mont Christian Academy on Tuesday night, 71-45, at Garden Spot High School, ending YCD's season.
"I told the guys, you're going to lose. It's going to happen," YCD head coach Corey Stiles said after the loss. "Unfortunately, it happened tonight. But, give them credit, that's a very good team. (Sean Griffin) and even David Giuliani, they killed us. But, that's what we need to do in the offseason, is get stronger. We need to get more physical and we need to work on speed."
Falcons dominate inside: Griffin, who is listed at 6 feet, 8 inches, and Giuliani, at 6-foot-4, dominated the Greyhounds inside. Stiles knew coming into the game that the Falcons' size was going to be a tall task, but didn't expect it to give his team as much trouble as it did.
In the first half alone, Phil-Mont (26-1) shot 19 of 23 (72 percent) from the floor, mostly coming on high-percentage chances in the paint.
For the opening quarter, the Greyhounds hung with the Falcons offensively, for the most part, missing just two shots of their own to only trail 23-16 after the opening eight minutes. But, while Phil-Mont continued to score the ball seemingly at will in the second quarter, it turned up the defensive pressure, forcing countless YCD turnovers in the second quarter, turning a seven-point lead into a 19-point advantage by halftime.
"We haven't seen size like that all year," Stiles said. "So, that was really tough. And you can't practice against it because we don't have it. At least if we're playing against a 6-foot athletic guard, I can put DeAireus (Brown) or Jordan (Ray) on the other team (in practice) and now we can play against them, but it's hard to simulate against a 6-foot-8 kid."
The same problems that plagued the Greyhounds in the first half continued to haunt them in the second half. But, even when they were getting looks at the basket in the third quarter, the ball just wasn't falling. The Falcons outscored YCD 21-15 in the third to balloon their lead up to 25 points.
No quit in Greyhounds: To the Greyhounds' credit, they didn't quit. With a perfect season hanging in the balance, they fought until the very end, and when it was time to walk off the court for the final time this year, they did so to a standing ovation from their fans.
"Coach didn't have too much to say to us, but the one thing he did say is that he was proud of us," Brown said. "He was proud of us and that's the only thing that matters. We made history just now. This season, this whole year, 23-1, nobody else at this school has done that, ever. District championship, never did that. Making it this far, we did it once and that was like six years ago. It hurt. It hurt like hell, but all we can do is keep our heads up and come back next year."
Brown finished with a team-high 20 points for YCD, while Ray was the only other member to reach double figures with 10 points. Thompson Wymard chipped in with nine points.
There was just too much size to handle on the other side. The 6-foot-8 Griffin, 6-foot-5 Osaze Thornton and 6-foot-4 Giuliani combined to score 53 of Phil-Mont's 71 points, with each player cracking double figures. Noah Baldez also scored in double digits for the Falcons, finishing with 11 points.
High expectations for next year: While the Greyhounds' lone setback this season is the one that ended their season, expectations for next year are already set at a high level, with only one player graduating, while the rest of the team will be back.
"The bar is set for us now," Brown said. "It's set really high. We just have to come back and set it on fire. That's it."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com