York High head coach Clovis Gallon and the Bearcats' Kyree Generett discuss the team's double-overtime victory against previously unbeaten Northeastern. Elijah Armold, York Dispatch
When the York-Adams League basketball playoffs roll around, all a division championship does is guarantee you a spot in the tournament.
After that, it’s usually anyone's guess what happens next.
That point was driven home Friday during the first round of play in this year’s installment of the league playoffs.
Northeastern, the repeat champion in Division I, was the only team with a division crown to its credit to advance. Division II champ Dover was ousted by New Oxford and Division III co-champions York Catholic and Littlestown lost to Kennard-Dale and Central York, respectively.
As a result, the semifinal action Tuesday night at Red Lion High School will feature three D-I teams, with Central York (15-7) facing New Oxford (17-6) at 6 p.m. in a battle of D-I rivals, while Northeastern (21-2) will take on Kennard-Dale (18-5) in the following game from the same site at 7:30 p.m.
Bobcats vs. Rams: After starting the season 18-0, Northeastern hit a bit of speed bump, losing back-to-back contests before rebounding with two straight wins to close out the regular season.
Those losses, however, clearly seem behind the Bobcats now.
“That’s over, we're in the second season and we’re pretty focused on playing Kennard-Dale (Tuesday) night,” Bobcats head coach Jon Eyster said. “At this point and time, you’ve got to be focused because you’re one and done. (The losses), that’s two weeks ago, we’re past it. … As long as we continue to defend the way we’ve defended all year, we’ll be fine.”
Northeastern, the defending tournament champ, has been handling its business nicely since the defeats, winning its last three games by an average of 34 points. The Bobcats reached the semifinals with a convincing 63-26 victory against York Tech.
K-D is making its first Y-A tournament appearance since 2003. The D-II runner-up Rams reached the semifinals by defeating York Catholic, 61-45.
A huge third quarter saw the Rams go from trailing by one at halftime, 20-19, to leading big at 41-25 after the third.
That 22-5 run was no doubt born from the signature Rams defense — one that produces the lowest points-allowed average in the York-Adams League this season at 45.9.
K-D will no doubt need more of the same Tuesday when it takes on the league’s top offense. So, Tuesday’s tilt is a classic clash of the top offense vs. the top defense.
The Bobcats earned their top ranking behind the well-known firepower of league-leading scorer Antonio Rizzuto (24.4 ppg) and Fred Mulbah (13.0 ppg).
As good as the Rams are on defense, they’re no slouch on offense, either. K-D will counter with the likes of Adam Freese, tied for fourth in the league at 19.7 points per game, and sensational freshman Carter Day.
Despite being young and only standing 5-feet, 5-inches, Day has been instrumental to the Rams’ successful season. He posted a team-high 20 points in K-D’s quarterfinal victory and averages 12.0 per game.
There were no regular-season meetings between these two, and Northeastern will be the first D-I team that K-D has taken on this season.
Panthers vs. Colonials: In contrast to the other semifinal, Central York vs. New Oxford is a battle of familiar foes.
Central is looking to reach the league final for a fifth straight season, thanks to a 71-55 triumph over Littlestown, while New Oxford advanced by edging Dover, 59-51.
Although the Panthers swept the regular-season match-ups vs. the Colonials, they were both tight contests. Central first grabbed a 59-52 road victory on Jan. 9, and its 49-44 home victory in the last game of the regular season on Feb. 6 gave the Panthers the No. 2 seed out of D-I over the Colonials.
New Oxford led the Feb. 6 tilt, 36-31, after three quarters before the Panthers took control in the final frame.
“They’re a really good basketball team that we’ll have to play our best to beat,” Panthers head coach Kevin Schieler said. “When we played them at our place, we did a really nice job on the defensive glass, something we didn’t do at their place. So, we’ll have to do a good job there to make sure we’re not giving them a lot of second-chance points.”
Each team sports a pair of double-digit scorers.
For the Colonials, John Wessel averages 15 a game and Abdul Janneh comes in with a 10.9 average. For the Panthers, Garrett Markey leads the team at 12.9 and Cade Pribula adds 10.9 more on average.
The last time out, however, Central held Wessel to four points and the Colonials kept Markey to seven. So, if Tuesday’s game is like the last meeting, it will be about who else can step up. Last time out it was Jaren Rex with 13 for New Oxford and Saa’hir Cornelius with 15 for Central.
“We’ve got to do a better job on the offensive end,” Schieler said. “We struggled to score consistently at our place, and that’s one of the things I really have to credit (New Oxford head coach Sean Bair) with. Their defense has improved so much from first time we played them to that last time.”
Championship game: The two victors will square off at 7 p.m. Thursday at York College for the league championship.
Reach Elijah Armold at email@example.com.