York, PA -
Friday's YAIAA boys' basketball title game will be one players and coaches from William Penn and South Western both expected and hoped would happen.
Bearcats senior forward Derek Wilson told the Mustangs' Mike Duffy when they played a second time he wanted a third at York College. Before Wilson threw down the first of four dunks Wednesday night in a 91-32 rout of Northeastern, it seemed destined.
"Here we come," said Wilson, whose 10 points provided more of an emotional lift to the gym at Red Lion High School. His first slam pushed a first-quarter lead to double digits, and it only grew from there.
A mid-court steal here and a 3-pointer there pushed Duffy's team into its sizeable, double-digit lead that turned into a 54-34 victory.
"All of the seniors that left last year, they made us promise we got to get back and win it this time," said Duffy, who scored a game-high 19 points in Wednesday's first semifinal. "It's been a long run. We started slow."
Both in their dissection of Dallastown, which didn't begin until the second half, and to open the season.
When Duffy and his teammates visited William Penn (22-2) in December, their first meeting since the Bearcats beat them in last year's YAIAA title game, South Western looked nothing like the team it brought to York College a year ago or Wednesday night.
Role players were still learning their jobs, 6-foot-6 standout Parker Bean struggled and coach Nate Brodbeck said after the 24-point loss to William Penn was in a class of its own. Slowly, the mood at South Western changed. Players, such as 6-1 forward Austin Cook and freshman guard Brock Geiman, grew with confidence. By the time they played William Penn a second time, the Bearcats needed to hold off their upset-minded rivals late in the fourth quarter.
Now they have the look of a team more than just upset-minded.
"It's another chance to play York High, and that's really what we want," Brodbeck said. "Regardless of the venue, it's just nice that it's the county championship because we want to beat them."
If the Mustangs looked poised for a YAIAA championship Wednesday, the Bearcats were something more.
Not that it should shock Brodbeck, Duffy or anyone.
This will be William Penn's fifth straight appearance in the league tournament final. No YAIAA team beat the Bearcats this season and few came close. Not Northeastern, which lost by more than 40 to them in the regular season and was the champion in Division II.
"I'm happy to be back," Wilson said, "and happy we're not playing a suspect team. I want to play a good team and go out with a bang."
Matt Goul is a high school sports reporter for the Daily Record/Sunday News. Reach him at email@example.com, 771-2045 or @mgoul on Twitter.