York, PA -
Sophomore guard CJ Boxley heard it from his coaches well before Friday when York Suburban played host to Eastern York. Shoot the ball.
With little time left, he had no other choice.
Boxley took an inbounds pass with 4.2 seconds left and made just two steps past halfcourt before he had to heave the game's final shot from well behind the 3-point line. It banked off the backboard. It rolled around the front of the rim. It hit the backboard once more.
It fell into the cylinder.
The student section behind the basket erupted, as did the onlooking York Suburban bench. They couldn't get to Boxley fast enough to celebrate the Trojans' 62-60 win that lifted them into a tie atop the YAIAA Division III boys' basketball standings.
"I just threw it up," said Boxley, who scored 16 points. "Bing! It went in."
Suburban (11-9, 10-3) now shares the division's top spot with Eastern (14-6, 10-3) and Bermudian Springs (16-4, 10-3). All because of an unlikely shot and a just as unlikely run.
The Trojans began January just 2-6. They were young. Even Evan Eberhardinger, the only returning starter from last season's 23-win team that won the division, had little to no varsity experience before that run.
Players didn't know what to do, Boxley and Eberhardinger said. They played one-on-one, not as a team. First-year coach Dustin Boeckel said they were just young. He had a hunch that with their talent, they could become something. It would just take time.
Around the first time Suburban played Eastern, a 72-69 overtime win, that time came.
It continued into their rematch. Suburban nursed its lead throughout the game's final 10 minutes, starting when Eberhardinger scored six points within 21 seconds. He hit a pair of free throws, then scored twice off turnovers in the backcourt -- even putting back his own miss on one -- to give the Trojans a 37-32 lead late in the third.
It grew to an 11-point difference but evaporated once Dalton Reichard made his first trip to the free-throw line with 4.2 left. He calmly gave Eastern a 60-59 lead, only breaking that demeanor to celebrate the shots, setting the stage for Boxley.
"There were some shots that banked in and, when it goes your way, it goes your way," said Eastern coach Jon Reichard, whose team will face Bermudian Springs on Tuesday for their share of the division title.
Suburban can win its share at home that night against Susquehannock, a team that handed the Trojans their last league loss. Ever since, Suburban has won seven straight YAIAA league games and nine of 10.
"We weren't a team yet," Boxley said of the difference. "We were just great players, but we were all individuals."
And not many seniors, either. In addition to Boxley, Manny McDowell and 6-foot-8 Malique Wise are juniors getting their first major varsity minutes. Their youth was apparent when Boxley scored too soon while holding for what was supposed to the final shot of the first half.
"Too soon," assistant coach Joe Hasenfuss yelled from the bench.
But the mistake allowed McDowell, who scored 16 points, to come up with a steal and buzzer-beating layup.
"I tell all of our kids, 'I'll tell you when to stop shooting,'" Boeckel said. "All of our kids have the green light -- for good shots. I think we've done a pretty good job of stressing situational type things."
Those situations came up Friday. Boeckel had two timeouts after Dalton Reichard's free throws. The first was used to read Eastern's defense. The second, which came with adjustments from both sides, forced some improvisation.
Suburban, which originally had Eberhardinger inbounding the ball, planned to set up a play for its leading scorer. Expecting Eastern to guard the new inbounding player, Boxley had to take the ball as far as he could when that did not happen.
"I was actually looking to pass the ball to the best shooter on the team," Boxley said of Eberhardinger.
Instead, with Eberhardinger tied up, he took his coaches' advice and shot it.
EASTERN YORK (60)
Broguen Nicholas 3 1-1 8, Travis Solomon 3 2-2 8, Dalton Reichard 4 2-2 10, Cody Bollinger 6 0-0 14, Christian Buser 7 5-8 19, Jake Kessler 0 1-2 1, Grum Kebede 0 0-1 0. Totals 23 11-16 60.
YORK SUBURBAN (62)
Evan Eberhardinger 9 3-4 22, CJ Boxley 5 4-7 16, Darius Boxley 0 0-0 0, Manny McDowell 6 2-2 16, Malique Wise 1 0-0 2, Isaiah Randall 2 0-0 4, Kevin Moats 0 0-0 0, PJ McClane 1 0-0 2. Totals 24 9-13 62.
Eastern 14 8 10 28 -- 60
Suburban 13 16 10 23 -- 62
3-point goals -- Eastern York 3 (Bollinger 2, Nicholas); Suburban 5 (CJ Boxley 2, McDowell 2, Eberhardinger).
JV score -- Eastern, 47-39.