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West York tops Eastern York to earn first York-Adams boys' basketball title since 2008

RYAN VANDERSLOOT
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West York celebrates near the end of the fourth quarter before claiming a 56-45 title win over Eastern York during YAIAA boys' championship basketball action at York County School of Technology in York Township, Friday, Feb. 18, 2022. West York would win the game 56-45. Dawn J. Sagert photo

SPRY – A year ago, the West York boys’ basketball team felt it had an opportunity to play for a pair of championships taken away.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the York-Adams regular season was truncated and the league playoffs were canceled. As difficult as that was, there was at least the chance to play for a District 3 Class 5-A title.

Until it wasn’t.

"We don’t like to talk about that” is all that West York coach Garrett Bull would say about the topic moments after his team earned a satisfying 56-45 triumph in the York-Adams final against Eastern York Friday night at York Tech.

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On the day of their district opener a year ago, the Bulldogs were forced to forfeit because of close contacts with the virus. That disappointment, however, was enough to fuel the thirst inside of Bull and his players this season. Making amends for that situation was certainly a goal at the onset of the 2021-2022 season.

The West York players only needed to remember the darkness surrounding that time to appreciate what they accomplished this season – first winning the Division II title and then earning a berth in this year’s playoff tournament.

Not wanting to allow another opportunity slip away, the Bulldogs were on a mission. It started last Saturday when a miracle last-minute comeback ignited what would turn out to be a triple-overtime quarterfinal victory against Dallastown.

It continued Wednesday when the West York boys fended off a challenge from a Northeastern side that again pushed the Bulldogs to the limit in the semifinals.

Those triumphs sent Bull’s team to exactly the place the players had their collective minds set on in the preseason – the York-Adams championship final. Facing an Eastern York side the Bulldogs defeated by double digits twice in the regular season, the West York boys understood beating the Knights a third time would not come easily.

And it didn’t.

Eastern gave the Bulldogs the type of game they expected during the regular season, closing to within four points midway through the third period. The West York boys, however, had answers for every run the Knights made.

Williams, Walker lead the way: And West York had the duo of A.J. Williams and Jaden Walker, too.

Williams poured in game-high 21 points, including a 10-for-11 performance from the charity stripe, while Walker chipped in 17 to help the Bulldogs scratch off another goal on their preseason checklist.

West York’s league title was the first for the program since winning back-to-back crowns in 2007 and 2008.

“I’m so proud of the guys,” Bull said. “They’re a special group and I told them that before the game. In my pregame speech I actually teared up for the first time before the evening started. Win or lose they were already champions in my mind.”

The emotions were evident from the players as well. The postgame celebration, that included interviews with the media as well as the medal ceremony and cutting down of the net, made it clear that this was the moment they were all waiting for.

“The energy was just focused,” Walker said. “You could feel it from the moment we walked on the floor. It was great.”

Best friends: It was only fitting the Walker and Williams made it happen in the biggest game so far this season. Teammates on the court but best friends off it, Walker sank 12 of the team’s collective 14 free throws in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

“Ever since eighth grade we’ve been best friends,” Walker said. “I just love the kid. He’s a great human being and a great basketball player. We just click really well both on and off the court. We know our games, so we’re compatible. I just love that kid.”

Williams, who is one of a handful of big forwards for the Bulldogs (22-2), doesn’t often show a ton of emotion on the court. But when he does, his teammates pick up on it and respond.

“It was great,” Williams said. “I loved every moment of it. To play in this environment is one-of-a-kind and not every team (gets here), but our team worked our (behinds) off during the summer and thanks to that we were in this moment.”

Knights fall short: The Knights (16-9), who were blown out in the first meeting this season with the Bulldogs, entered the night on a tear, having knocked off Division III champ York Catholic as well as Division I champ Red Lion in the playoffs.

“We put together a nice run to get here,” Eastern York coach Justin Seitz said. “There were some plays that we left on the court there.”

The Knights held the lead just once (3-2). A 7-0 run by the Bulldogs put them ahead for good, forcing the Wrightsville boys to play catch-up the rest of the night.

“They are a very good team when they have a lead,” Seitz said. “So, it’s really, really hard to get back in it.”

Austin Bausman led Eastern with 15 points, while freshman standout Carter Wamsley finished with 11 for the Knights.

Looking ahead: Both teams will have to regroup quickly for the upcoming District 3 draw that begins next week.

West York earned the No. 2 seed in Class 5-A and will host Big Spring Monday at 7 p.m. Eastern claimed the No. 5 seed in 4-A, which means the Knights have a bye before visiting No. 4 Littlestown next Thursday in the quarterfinals.

Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @ydsports.