York High wins 55-48 over Cedar Crest in Court of Dreams game at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Friday, Dec. 15, 2017.
While doing preseason prep work, and looking back on last year's basketball season, it was stunning to see that the York High boys' basketball team managed just eight wins last year.
The fact that a program with so much history, and one that is held to a higher standard than almost any other in the York-Adams League, finished 8-14 with no postseason action was more than a little surprising.
During media day in November, players on the team spoke primarily about two things — making sure last year was only a one-off occurrence and improving their defense.
So far, the Bearcats have done everything they could to put last season in the rear-view window, jumping out to a 4-1 start. Following Friday's 55-48 win over Cedar Crest at the Wells Fargo Center in the "Court of Dreams" game, York High is already halfway to last year's win total.
The come-from-behind victory capped a start to the schedule that saw the Bearcats play five times in eight days and come away with four wins. The win over the Falcons may have been the most impressive, defeating a Class 6-A school that entered the contest undefeated and was a district qualifier a year ago. The win showcased York High's ability to find a way to win, despite some struggles early in the game.
Improved defense: Defensively, this year's team has improved markedly thus far. In 2016-17, the Bearcats allowed 68.5 points per game, a big reason why their third-ranked scoring offense still wasn't enough to make them a playoff team.
So far, through five games, York High's scoring defense has been much better, allowing just 56.4 points per game. The most the Bearcats have allowed in a game is 75 to reigning PIAA Class 6-A state champion Reading in the second game of the season.
There's no doubt that York High has been much improved from a year ago, and when the Bearcats are good, it makes basketball in York County more entertaining.
Key Division I games loom: Now, York High must back it up against some of its closest rivals in York-Adams Division I in the upcoming week.
So far, the Bearcats are 2-0 in D-I play, but they've done that against teams you'd expect them to beat. They defeated New Oxford by 14 and then knocked off Spring Grove by seven, both coming at home.
However, this week will show more about whether York High is a contender or pretender in D-I.
On the docket this week are a pair of road games vs. two D-I teams that, going into the year, you'd expect to be the serious contenders to make the Y-A League tournament from D-I, along with powerhouse Northeastern.
Dallastown, then Central York: The Bearcats will travel to Dallastown on Tuesday, Dec. 19, and then go to Central York for a Friday game on Dec. 22, that will take the team into the holidays.
The Wildcats are dealing with injury issues to two key players to begin the year and are 2-2 overall, but 0-1 in D-I, with a road loss to the Panthers. Last season, Dallastown beat York High both meetings.
Friday night, the Bearcats will then have to deal with Central York, a team that's off to a 2-1 start and 1-0 in D-I. Every year, the Panthers seem to graduate four or five guys, but never miss a beat.
Aside from last season with York High, if there's been any program as consistent as the Bearcats at making the postseason, it's been Central. The Panthers, like Dallastown, were also 2-0 versus York High in 2016-17.
Key stretch: Match-ups like this week's for the Bearcats are the ones that will really give us a glimpse into whether they're contenders for the league tournament or not. Steal a game or two on the road against your nearest rivals and you'll start to be taken for real.
Lose both and doubt will start to creep in.
"The kids are definitely bought into being basketball players," head coach Clovis Gallon said following Friday's win over Cedar Crest. "There's kids that play basketball and kids that really want to be basketball players and want to work on the art of playing basketball. ... We're 2-0 in league and this week will put us in a strong position to reach one of our goals, coming out with two wins."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org