The opening weekend of high school basketball can be good for two things — getting fans excited for the upcoming season and making dramatic overreactions after just one or two games.
The former will always be a great thing, while the latter never does any good.
However, you can take some impressions away from those games.
During Friday and Saturday, I watched three games featuring four different York-Adams League teams. This is what I took away from each game.
Northeastern better than expected: We all knew the Bobcats’ boys’ basketball team was going to be good — perhaps great — this year.
How could they not, after coming off the best season in program history and returning most of that team?
Well, what Northeastern showcased this weekend at its own tip-off tournament was that it might be even better than anticipated.
Sure, the Bobcats still have University at Albany-bound Antonio Rizzuto and the human highlight reel, Fred Mulbah. The Bobcats, however, are much more than those two and they displayed it through their first two games.
I had a chance to see them on Friday, Dec. 8, against Delone Catholic. Northeastern cruised to an 80-40 victory, before backing that up with the tournament title on Saturday with a 60-52 win over Northern York.
In the first game, the Bobcats didn’t even need Mulbah to be his usual self. He managed just four points, but Northeastern still found a way to score 80. Rizzuto poured in 22 to make up for it, but it was the depth that made a statement.
Sophomore Nate Wilson, in his second year starting, dropped in 17 points, but did it in a way that caught the attention of many. He was always known as a sharp-shooter, but he showed off a new ability to drive and finish. The combination of the driving and shooting helped him go on an individual 8-0 run against the Squires.
Then there’s the addition of D.J. Hamilton from York Country Day. The senior wasted no time fitting right in with his new team, matching Wilson’s 17 points. Hamilton brings plenty of experience with him from the Greyhounds, where he won back-to-back District 3 Class 1-A titles.
After that, things got scary for Northeastern's future foes. Seemingly every guy that head coach Jon Eyster brought off the bench found a way to contribute.
Quay Mulbah played relentless defense and added five points as a guard, while Zech Sanderson added four points down low while starter Nate Eyster battled foul trouble. Maurice Capo and Andrew Brodbeck combined to add nine points at the guard spots.
Combined, the bench scored 20 points for the Bobcats, showing that they’re going to contribute more than just filler minutes.
“It’s going to be valuable,” Rizzuto said about the team’s depth. “Us having more than six players this year is going to help because we’re going to have guys get tired, so it’s going to help us.”
If Northeastern can routinely get close to 20 points of scoring from its bench, then it might make the Bobcats tougher to beat than anyone expected.
Eastern York shows inexperience: Like Northeastern, I only saw the Golden Knights play on Friday night, a 66-45 loss to Northern York.
So, maybe my perception is skewed from that one performance, but it wasn’t very pretty.
Eastern York is much younger and inexperienced than in recent seasons under head coach Jon Reichard.
Few teams can withstand the graduation bug and this might be the year that it finally catches up to the Golden Knights. In its game against the Polar Bears, sloppy play and turnovers killed Eastern.
Too many times offensive possessions were not only ending without any points, but with turnovers. It led to easy transition baskets for Northern, which helped it go on big scoring runs to break open the game.
With so many new and young players taking on new roles for the Golden Knights this season, it’s to be expected that there will be some growing pains early in the year.
However, being more responsible with the basketball is something every coach will continually preach and it’s surely going to be something that Reichard will emphasize to his players moving forward.
Fighting Irish outmatched by Shamrocks: There's a built-in rivalry between two area Catholic schools such as York Catholic and Trinity, but it's been pretty one-sided in recent years.
The two teams added another chapter to their rivalry on Saturday, Dec. 9, with the Shamrocks proving too much for the Fighting Irish. The overall size of Trinity put York Catholic off its game, leading to a comfortable 56-42 road win for the Shamrocks.
The contest was a good measuring stick for York Catholic. Trinity is the reigning District 3 3-A champion and it showed why. The Irish fell behind in the first quarter and never overcame it, seeing the deficit climb to as much as 20.
What was positive was how the Irish continued to fight, according to head coach Blaine Claiborne. He challenged his players at halftime to cut into the deficit. The Irish did that over the second half to make the final score more respectable.
This is a York Catholic team with four new starters, so it’ll take some time for the new rotation to gel. A season-opening tilt against a program with the winning pedigree such as the Shamrocks isn’t something to necessarily get concerned over, but something to use as a gauge for the Irish to see where they’re currently at and where they need to get to contend for a district championship.
“(Trinity) understands what it is to prepare to be a state champion. They understand that,” Claiborne said. “We play hard, but they play a different kind of hard. … I just hope we see where we’re at, see where we need to get and just work to get there.”
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org