HAMBURG — This time of year, the ability to keep one’s composure when the pressure is high can sometimes be more valuable than pure talent.
That lesson was on full display Thursday at Hamburg High School when the York Country Day boys’ basketball team defeated Millville, 61-49, in a PIAA Class 1-A second-round contest.
The victory marks the first time the Greyhounds' program has ever reached the PIAA quarterfinals. They’ll next play Saturday, when they face Girard College at a site and time to be determined.
However, the District 3 champion Greyhounds (21-4) and coach Chris Charleston aren't content to simply rest on the accomplishments of an already successful season.
“We talked a little bit about that in the locker room,” Charleston said of the historic triumph. “But there’s more to states than this and they want to continue to play.”
Not easy: The Greyhounds were expected to handle business in the fashion the final score indicated, but it wasn’t always easy.
Every time YCD tried to create a comfortable cushion, the pesky Quakers (22-5) were there to close the gap. The combination of a game opponent and an early lack of intensity could have caused a collapse in the YCD ranks.
The Greyhounds carried a 33-24 margin into the break that seemed anything but comfortable. Charleston then challenged his squad to turn up the intensity and YCD responded.
“We were a little rusty, but it is what it is,” Charleston said. “Sometimes you don’t come with your intense play and we got caught off guard a little at the beginning. But we did a good job of correcting that.”
Quakers get rattled: After the District 4 runner-up Quakers cut the lead to 33-28, YCD dialed up a devastating defensive press that caused the Quakers to slowly become rattled.
The Greyhounds' hard play helped them draw a couple of charges that got the Quakers' emotions to bubble. That bubble would burst when Millville was assessed a technical foul after a Quakers' player apparently said something to a Greyhounds' player that drew the officials’ ire.
By the time Millville could calm things down, YCD had gone on a 12-7 run and led 45-35. The closest the Quakers could get from there would be six points before the Greyhounds calmly closed things out.
Hamilton comes up big: The spark for the Greyhounds during the run came from junior guard D.J. Hamilton. His tight defense often rattled the Quakers' ball-handlers, producing multiple turnovers that led to Greyhounds' scores.
Hamilton finished with 12 points. The standout YCD duo of Jordan Ray and DeAireus Brown each scored 17 points to lead a balanced YCD scoring attack.
“D.J. Hamilton gets a lot of credit for that,” Charleston said of his team's renewed energy. “He really stepped it up. He’s our little engine. When he gets going, the other guys feed off that.”
Kelly Holdren led all scorers with 19 points for Millville.
Tall task ahead: The Greyhounds look to have quite the tall task ahead in their quest to continue their PIAA run. Girard College has a long and athletic front court featuring 6-foot, 8-inch freshman forward Mikeal Jones, who scored 22 points in a 75-52 victory against Lourdes Regional in Thursday’s other game at Hamburg.
The Cavaliers are also stout inside when Jones is paired with 6-6 forward Brandon Smith. Their back court includes 6-4 guard Daiquan Copeland, who scored a game-high 29 for the Cavaliers.
“We have the heart of a champion,” Charleston said. “And hopefully we can play well and continue on in the tournament.”
Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org.