It would be a stretch to call Eastern York a defensive basketball team. For the most part, the Golden Knights' identity is contained in their two junior stars -- Austin Tillotson and Andrew Nicholas -- and their point-popping, long-range offense.

But there's little doubt defense has played a major role in Eastern's development into a state playoff contender.

"That's been the missing piece of the program for the last few years -- being able to create havoc on defense and get stops," said Eastern coach Larry Fisher, whose team will play Murrell Dobbins Tech tonight at 7:30 p.m. in a PIAA Class AAA second-round playoff contest at Reading High's Geigle Complex.

A look at the numbers confirms Fisher's point.

Eastern York (29-0) allowed the fewest points per game of any YAIAA team during the regular season. Including the postseason, the Golden Knights are letting up 41.9 points per game.

Only twice this season has Eastern's opponent scored 60 or more points. It allowed a season-high 62 against Simon Gratz in January -- and still won by 18.

Eastern has improved by mixing aggressive zone sets -- sometimes with the 6-foot-6 Nicholas stationed up top to create steals -- and traditional man defense.

"The big thing that's helped our team get the record we have right now is people buying into the different types of defense that we play," Fisher said. "I absolutely believe we're not undefeated without the defense we have.


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That defense will need to step up against Dobbins (17-8), of the Philadelphia Public League, and its 6-foot-7 forward, Jerrell Wright.

The junior scored 20 points -- 16 in the second half -- and ripped down 10 rebounds in the Mustangs' 57-52, first-round win against Springfield-Delco on Friday.

"Just first look, he's big," Fisher said of Wright. "He's all of 6-7 and uses his body real well. He goes to the basket and he's got good footwork.

"The big thing is making it difficult for them to get him the ball."

With a win, Eastern would set a program record for wins in a season. The Golden Knights tied the mark in their 68-42 victory against Coughlin on Friday -- a game Eastern won despite shooting 1-for-17 from beyond the arc.

Fisher said he was pleased with his team's performance, but concerned by its shooting struggles. The Golden Knights averaged 7.6 treys per game during the district playoffs.

If their shots aren't falling tonight, the Golden Knights may have to fall back on that defense.

"You win games by outscoring people, but you don't always win the big ones that way," Fisher said.

A look at the other PIAA second-round games involving YAIAA teams tonight and Wednesday:


Tonight


Class AAA Boys
   Who: York Suburban (23-5) vs. Lancaster Catholic (23-5)
   Where: Central Dauphin East High School
   Tipoff: 7:30 p.m.
   The skinny: The Trojans take on the same Crusaders team that nearly knocked off Eastern York in the District 3 final.
   Trojans must: Play team defense. Lancaster Catholic has an extremely balanced offense -- on any night, a different scorer can emerge. The Crusaders are led by senior guard Tyler Purvis, who scored 25 in their district title game defeat.
   Crusaders must: Keep tabs on Kevin Donahue. In Suburban's last two losses, the junior guard has scored a combined 18 points. In the Trojans' last two wins, Donahue has averaged 24 points. Thomas McInerney may be Suburban's lynchpin, but Donahue is pretty important, too.

   
Class AA Girls
   Who: York Catholic (25-3) vs. Springfield Montco (16-9)
   Where: Coatesville Area High School
   Tipoff: 6 p.m.
   The skinny: The Irish look to keep rolling against the District 1 champions, coached by former Kennard-Dale hoopster Sarah Gibbs.
   Irish must: Let Kady Schrann take over, which she's done quite well lately. The all-everything junior has scored exactly 23 points in each of her last three games, and helped York Catholic roll over Bodine on Friday. 
   Spartans must: Take the air out of the ball as much as possible and hope for the best. Problem is, York Catholic has been pretty good in low scoring contests, too. Take, for instance, the Irish's 38-30 district title victory against Lancaster Mennonite.
   
   Who: Delone Catholic (21-5) vs. Tamaqua (25-2)
   Where: East Pennsboro High School
   Tipoff: 7 p.m.
   The skinny: These teams meet in a rematch of last season's second-round clash, which Delone won, 44-40.
   Squirettes must: Find another scoring option. Sierra Moore always gets her points, but to get where it wants to go, Delone needs other players to step up. Stormie Hibshman did that Friday against Freire Charter, scoring 14 points.
   Blue Raiders must: Feed the ball to star junior Amy Zehner. The 5-foot-11 forward already has topped the career 1,000-point mark, and scored 22 points in Tamaqua's first-round win over Mount Carmel. Getting her going will be key.
   
Class AAAA Girls
   Who: Red Lion (25-4) vs. Council Rock South (21-7)
   Where: Governor Mifflin High School
   Tipoff: 6 p.m.
   The skinny: Red Lion looks to continue its state run against the fifth seed from District 1.
   Lions must: Do what they've done all year: Play terrorizing defense. Council Rock South will likely try to pound the ball inside to 6-foot-2 sophomore Alex Wheatley. The best way to stop Wheatley? Disrupt the Golden Hawks before they get into their half-court set.
   Golden Hawks must: Work the ball inside. Wheatley had 27 points and 18 rebounds in a first-round state victory against Reading. Red Lion will need a big game out of sophomore Erica Maciejewski, who on her best nights can herself be a force down low.

Wednesday


Class AAAA Boys
   Who: William Penn (24-6) vs. Liberty (23-5)
   Where: Geigle Complex, Reading High School
   Tipoff: 7:30 p.m.
   The skinny: William Penn looks for some more postseason magic against the District 11 champions.
   Bearcats must: Continue to own the third and fourth quarters. William Penn has shown over the last two seasons an ability to wear teams down. That fact aside, the Bearcats may want to try playing the front-runners for once.
   Hurricanes must: Get junior Derrun Hilliard going. There's a good chance the 6-foot-4 guard -- who is receiving Division I interest -- will be matched up with William Penn's do-it-all junior Kelvin Parker. That matchup may end up holding the key to the game.
   
Class AAA Girls

   Who: West York (28-2) vs. Forest Hills (19-6)
   Where: Chambersburg High School
   Tipoff: 7 p.m.
   The skinny: West York looks to build off the program's first Class AAA state playoff win.
   Bulldogs must: Get to the rim. West York can put up huge numbers on offense, but only when players like Zona Smith and Paige Elliott attack the basket. If the Bulldogs settle for mid- and long-range jump shots, they may be in trouble.
   Rangers must: Slow things down. It would be hard to imagine Forest Hills being able to match the speed that West York can offer. But confine the Bulldogs to a half-court set, and they can have trouble at times.
jclayton@ydr.com; 771-2045