If you’re sitting atop the District 3 Class 4-A boys’ basketball power ratings, and you travel to take on York Catholic, you’re going to have a bad time.
At least that’s been the theme of the past two weeks for the Fighting Irish.
York Catholic, rated No. 2 in Class 3-A, defeated then 4-A No. 1 Lancaster Catholic in overtime at West York during the War of the Roses event on Saturday, Jan. 6. The Irish pulled off a similar feat by taking down then-No. 1 Littlestown on Friday night at home. That helped push Lancaster Catholic back into the 4-A top spot.
However, figuring out the District 3 ratings is better left for later. There’s plenty of basketball left before district playoff time.
So as the regular season comes down the stretch, here’s a look at how the boys' division races are shaping up.
Division III: Although both victories were valuable, York Catholic’s triumph over the Thunderbolts meant a little more. It gave the Irish the division lead at 6-0 and it dropped previous-leader Littlestown to 6-1.
Another theme that seems to be developing, not just for the Irish, but for all the current division leaders, is defense.
While each of the top teams have plenty of offensive firepower, they’re putting in just as much effort on the other end of the floor. Each of the leaders displays balance by having one of the league’s top offenses while also sporting some of the best defensive statistics.
This was evident for the Irish during their victory Friday night. Active hands that got into passing lanes led to multiple steals that were converted into baskets, helping the Irish pull away for the 68-51 victory.
“We’re playing very good defense right now,” York Catholic coach Blaine Claiborne said after Friday’s victory. “We just need to keep coming together and making sure your teammates can rely on you to do what you’re supposed to do.”
As for the race to the division title, the Irish can take another major step with a victory against the Bolts when they travel to Littlestown on Friday, Feb. 2.
Littlestown looks to be the pick for the runner-up spot in the division should it not claim the crown. However, don’t count out a suddenly game York Tech (8-5, 5-2 D-III). Sure, the Spartans have already lost once to the Bolts, but they’ll get another crack at them on Tuesday, Jan. 30. A win there, combined with a late slide by Littlestown, could see the surprise Spartans in the league tournament.
Division II: While the D-III race is probably the best in terms of a battle for the top spot, there’s plenty to play for in the other divisions. There are lots of teams still in position to possibly reach the league playoffs.
Dover (9-2) is the leader in D-III at 5-0, two games better in the loss column than second-place Kennard-Dale (9-4, 4-2). The Eagles already own a 65-50 victory over the Rams on Tuesday, Jan. 2, while the Rams bested the Eagles, 45-42, on Saturday, Dec. 9, as part of the Bermudian Springs Tournament.
Their third meeting will come this week on Friday, Jan. 19, when K-D visits Dover. An Eagles victory there would make it awfully difficult for anyone to catch them.
For their part, the Rams can help their league tourney chances with a win Wednesday, Jan.. 17, when Gettysburg comes to Fawn Grove, followed by a win Friday vs. Dover. The Warriors (7-6) are right behind the Rams in division standings at 3-3.
Eastern York (6-8) and West York (5-7) also have 3-3 records in division play, but both must travel to Fawn Grove later this season. Rams victories in those games would all but seal the deal for the league playoffs. The battle then would be which team could sneak into the Y-A tourney in third place.
Division I: The reason for working backwards from D-III to D-I is that the top tier is the clearest in terms of who will likely walk away division champ.
Northeastern (12-0, 7-0) stands out as the clear favorite for not just another division championship, but another York-Adams crown as well. The Bobcats also fit the "balance" theme as well. In fact, the Bobcats might be the best embodiment of it.
It’s very easy to focus on Northeastern’s offensive firepower. The Bobcats sit atop the league with a 68.7 points-per-game average led by league-leading scorer Antonio Rizzuto (27.9 ppg). But it should also be noted that the Bobcats’ have the second-best scoring defense in the league at 46.2 ppg.
Their speed and athleticism really shine the minute the ball changes possession. They’re perhaps the best in the league at turning defense into offense, with frequent odd-man rushes resulting in easy lay-ins.
“If we stay disciplined defensively and rebound, the idea is you get a stop and you get rewarded by going in transition,” Bobcats head coach Jon Eyster said after his team’s Wednesday, Jan. 10, victory against York High. “That’s our reward for playing good defense.”
As far as the division race goes, the Bobcats hold at least a three-game lead over all other teams except one — Central York
The Bobcats sit a game ahead of the Panthers (9-4, 6-1) and already own a 59-42, home victory against the Panthers on Tuesday, Dec. 19. Barring a late slide from Northeastern or Central, the Jan. 23 game that sees the Bobcats travel to Central should decide the division.
The race that gets exciting here is who will qualify for the league tournament. The Panthers are in good shape for a league tourney, but there’s a logjam of teams behind the Panthers that could slide into the third-place spot.
New Oxford (9-4, 4-3), York High (7-6, 4-3), Dallastown (7-5, 3-4) and Red Lion (4-7, 3-4) remain in that mix.
Once the divisions are decided, a lot of the mystery fades and the focus shifts to a singular question — can anyone stop the Bobcats from repeating as league champs?
— Elijah Armold is a sports reporter with The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com