The York Tech boys' basketball team is off to one of its best starts in recent memory. A few players and head coach Jim Collins discuss the reasons for their success so far. Elijah Armold, York Dispatch
Success in sports, as in life, can mean many things.
A good example is the 2017-18 York Tech boys’ basketball team.
While the Spartans aren’t favorites for division or league titles, the team still has an opportunity to take the program to new heights.
Tech sits at 7-3 after Saturday’s 56-52 win at James Buchanan. Included in those seven wins is a holiday tournament title at Eastern York, the first time the Spartans have been crowned champions of a tournament since 1981.
Historical context: The Spartans have already surpassed last season’s four victories. Still, it’s the records the Spartans are chasing that could potentially make this season special.
Since the 1970-71 season, the Spartans have finished with a winning record twice and had one season at .500. The last time Tech finished with more wins than losses was in 1989, when the team posted a 16-9 record and ended up third in the East Division of what was then the York County Interscholastic Athletic Association at 9-5.
By the team’s estimation, that was also the last York Tech team to compete in the District 3 playoffs. This iteration of the Spartans is seeded ninth in the District 3 Class 6-A power ratings. The top 12 teams in 6-A make the district playoffs. The Spartans' 7-2 record used for computer district points doesn't factor in an out-of-state loss to Harford Tech in Maryland.
The last time the Spartans sported a winning record in their division came in 1999 when they went 10-8 in Division II. Currently, the Spartans are 4-1 in D-III play, a half game back of York Catholic (4-0) and a game and a half back of division-leading Littlestown (5-0).
2018 Spartans: Leading the way this season is junior Terance Romey. He sits among the York-Adams League scoring leaders at 17.4 points per game.
While one of the smaller players on the court at any given time, Romey plays with a heart and tenacity larger than his peers. He sheds his reserved nature on the floor, letting his leadership shine.
“We’ve been working harder in practice, more than last year. We’ve all been focusing on the little things, mental, physical, before the games,” Romey said. “We play as a team more, and we communicate more.”
Tech also benefits from the experience of Romey and fellow junior Jahkwan Batty and Jamal Jackson, all of whom were starters a season ago as sophomores.
“When I saw them on the freshman team, I said to myself ‘I think I can build a team around those three players,’” Tech head coach Jim Collins said. “Last year was kind of a work in progress, introducing them to varsity basketball. Which is a huge step up from the freshman team. And then trying to find the right role players to play with them.”
One of the things about this year’s team that pleases Collins the most is that his squad is taking ownership of its path.
“Terance Romey is the ultimate leader. He doesn’t say a whole lot, he’s pretty quiet. But he has a tendency to police the other kids on the team and call them out before I have a chance to,” Collins said. “So, I’m really, really proud of him and his ability to lead so far this year. That’s the largest sign of growth that I’ve seen, is Terance policing the other players instead of the coaching staff having to.”
The larger theme of this team that puts a smile on Collins’ face is its willingness to “persevere.”
A fine example came during the team’s 51-50 win against Biglerville on Friday.
The game featured a first half that was far from what the Spartans envisioned. While it would have been easy to get down on themselves and collapse, Collins was pleased at his team’s poise and, well, perseverance.
Led by 30 points from Romey, the Spartans remained calm down the stretch and held on for the victory.
They absorbed constructive criticism from coaches and each other, without taking offense. More importantly, they remained a stable “family” unit, often encouraging each other, where teams of years gone by might have become fractured.
Deck stacked against Spartans: One of the biggest difficulties the Spartans must constantly overcome is the lack of feeder programs on the junior high and youth levels.
Students aren’t in the Spartans’ system until their freshman year, sometimes arriving even later. Also, players come from all over the county, some with hour-long rides to the school.
In years past, this meant a situation where the groups merely came together only during official business on the hardwood and then would go their separate ways.
This year, that situation is reversed.
“What I think we do best is, we play as a team; we play as a family,” junior Jahkwan Batty said. “We all play together, we all have the same drive to win as the next team does. So, what I think we do best is our drive, our mental ability to win games and leave it all out there on the court.”
It's a process that began after last season ended. Many of the Spartans on this year’s team continued their togetherness through participation in AAU leagues as well as fielding a squad in the summer league held at York's Voni Grimes Gym.
It’s not just coming together on the court, however, that has been of importance to the Spartans, but also away from the game.
“We all know each other a lot. We kind of build our chemistry on and off the court,” senior Khalil Redman said. “When we’re outside of school we all hang with each other, play basketball together a lot. So, when it comes on the court, we have a chemistry because we know how to play with each other.”
Building something that lasts: There are goals that go well beyond this season for Spartans.
They would like to use this season as a springboard to future success by creating a new sense of pride and winning tradition at Tech.
It's one this new "family" can carry into a new home next year. Tech will break ground in June on a new $12 million, 2,000-seat gymnasium. And it’s what might happen there in the future that is also exciting for the Spartans.
Romey, who came into the season having already posted more than 500 points, is on track to become the third 1,000-point scorer in program history and the first since 1982 according to Collins.
“I would like to see a guy like Terance maybe go away to college somewhere and play, and if he were ever to move back to York, maybe a former 1,000 points scorer might like to come back and coach his alma mater,” Collins said. “And that way, Tech becomes a bit more of a “normal” school, that they’re not ‘misfits’ anymore. That he actually belonged here, he went here and he knew what the hardships were like and he can pass that on to those that come behind him.”
While continuing to win games and earn a postseason spot are the short-term goals, Collins and his program also are also focused on the larger picture that has nothing to do with putting the ball in the basket.
“Winning basketball games is great. And it feels terrific, and everybody is your buddy when you win and telling you great job,” Collins said. “But I would much rather see the kids five or 10 years down the road make good choices when they’re adults than I would win a basketball game.”
Elijah Armold is a sports reporter with The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.