Until the final two weeks of the regular season, it looked like there was going to be little intrigue during the York-Adams League boys’ basketball tournament.
Northeastern raced out to a 16-0 start and it looked as if the Bobcats would face little challenge on their way to defending their title. Then the Bobcats hit a snag, suffering back-to-back losses to York High and New Oxford before finishing at 20-2.
Those losses added some uncertainty to this year’s event, providing renewed hope to a surging field of contenders.
As the tournament kicks off Friday, this year’s field can be broken down into three main groups.
Mainstays: The first group, "the mainstays," are teams that have been frequent participants in the Y-A tourney and can usually be included in the company of the favorites each time out.
This year’s collection includes Northeastern, Central York (14-7) and York Catholic (15-7).
Despite those two losses down the stretch, Northeastern is still the leader of this bunch. The Bobcats are looking to repeat after capturing the program’s first league tournament title a season ago.
Just like last season, Northeastern again sports the top offense in the league, averaging 65.7 points per game. Leading the way is University at Albany commit Antonio Rizzuto, who averages a league-best 24.6 points per game.
The Bobcats are also dangerous from long range, knocking down a league-best 170 shots from beyond the arc. Rizzuto accounted for 73 of those triples.
Northeastern is just as efficient on the other of the floor, giving up 47.6 ppg. That mark is good enough for third-best in the league. The Bobcats use their athleticism on the defensive end to create offensive opportunities. That combination could very well see them cutting down the nets again.
The Irish, who average 60.9 ppg and allow 46.5 ppg, are second only to the Bobcats in terms of point differential. The Irish will need to rely heavily on their defensive pressure if they’re to make noise.
The Panthers will look to make their fifth straight Y-A title game appearance and are hoping to capture the crown for the first time since 2014.
Wild cards: The next group could be considered the "wild cards." While not outright favorites, Dover (19-3), Littlestown (15-5) and New Oxford (16-6) each have the talent to make a run. However, two of those teams, Dover and New Oxford, meet in the first round.
It’s the only match-up of the first round that is a rematch from the regular season. On Jan. 3, Dover used a 30-point effort from Keith Davis and a 20-point performance from Elijah Sutton to claim an 83-63 victory over the Colonials. The game was special for New Oxford. Senior standout John Wessel crossed the 1,000-career-points mark while scoring 27.
The Eagles, who repeated as Division II champs, can cause problems when their long-range shooting kicks in. Dover was behind only Northeastern in terms of triples made this year and had two players finish in the top-10 in terms of 3-pointers hit.
The Eagles also have the best record against the field with a 4-1 mark against tournament teams.
Turnaround teams: The final group can be labeled the "turnaround teams," squads who are making their first appearances in the league tournament after some time away. This label is reserved for Kennard-Dale (17-5) and York Tech (15-6).
After a second-place finish in D-II, Kennard-Dale is back in the county tournament for the first time since 2003. This season is only the third winning season for K-D in the past 20.
The Rams are the least familiar with field, having only a trio of games against fellow participant Dover to gauge their chances. K-D went 1-2 against the Eagles.
York Tech is ending an even longer drought. The Spartans had not had a winning season since 1989.
Kennard-Dale gets the nod from this group as the one more likely to do any damage.
The Rams are led by Stone Hill College commit Adam Freese and have the league’s best scoring defense, allowing 45.9 ppg. That should make for quite the defensive battle when the Rams meet the equally stingy Irish in the first round.
However, a game where the winner is the one who makes the most stops likely benefits K-D more than a potential shootout with the Irish.
Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org.