I have to admit, i was a little surprised by the outcome's of Monday's showdown between Eastern York and York Suburban. I, presumably like most people, expected a taut, tense affair between the area's two remaining boys' unbeatens.
What we ended up getting was a laugher. Eastern darted to a big second half lead, pulling away to a 69-43 win. The Golden Knights are now 9-0, and took Round 1 of these squads' two scheduled regular season games.
And though I wasn't in attendance, the wonderful advent of online live streaming allowed me to catch tonight's contest. (Yes, I spent my off night watching high school hoops on my laptop. No, I do not live a very exciting life.)
So here are my thoughts of both teams, with the victors up first...
For my money, it was all about one guy from a Golden Knights perspective.
Austin Tillotson was far and away the best player on the court tonight. The junior point guard made everything happen for Eastern, whether it be picking up the scoring slack early or making smart passes the rest of the way. At least twice he made unbelievable passes to wide open players from around half-court. He even blocked a shot (by Kevin Donahue, I believe?) to end the third quarter. Tillotson finished with 21 points and nine assists.
Put simply, he was everywhere. And he needed to be early. Andrew Nicholas was ineffective for large stretches. Nathan Bollinger and Luke Barto each went through spells of foul trouble in the first half. But Tillotson was the constant, always in control, almost always making the right pass or decision on the offensive end. He may be the premier point guard in the area -- as a junior, no less.
Nicholas wasn't quite as good. The 6-foot-6 junior got a little trigger happy, and never found the range on his jump shot. The missed dunk in the third quarter wasn't his best moment. But these sort of games are to be expected. To his credit, Nicholas finished with 19 points, though many of those came after Eastern had built its big lead.
If anything, the fact that Eastern won without getting Nicholas' best effort could be seen as encouraging. Imagine what the score would have been at halftime if Nicholas' shots were going in?
Detractors have pointed to Eastern's soft, early-season schedule, saying the Knights came into this game untested. Now, I think it's pretty safe to say this team is for real. In nine wins, they still haven't beaten a team by less than 25 points. At the risk of sending the hype machine into overdrive, you have to consider this team, at the very least, one of the favorites for a District 3, Class AAA title.
To say this was a disappointing result for the Trojans would be an understatement. But off nights happen, and I don't think this team is 26 points worse than the Golden Knights. Suburban's going to win a lot of games this year.
Still, Eastern exposed some issues Monday. Suburban has been extremely reliant on Thomas McInerney and Kevin Donahue for offense this year, and both were held under their season averages. McInerney finished with 14 points, while Donahue managed eight. In Suburban's four best wins this year (against Lancaster Mennonite, Allentown Central Catholic, Manheim Township, West York), those two players averaged a combined 42.3 points per game -- good for 71 percent of the Trojans offense in those contests. Relying so much on two players for offense is a dangerous game, but it's also not a very easy problem to fix.
The Trojans are in general thin -- coach Tom Triggs used one bench player through the first three quarters. Even when guard Cody Waltimyer got into foul trouble -- picking up three in the first half -- he didn't sit for long. That lack of bench production will continue to be an obstacle.
The 69 points Suburban allowed was way over its season average of 41.3 per game coming in. Part of you has to tip you cap to the Golden Knights, but there were also some defensive breakdowns for the Trojans. Not to mention several of Suburban's turnovers led to easy buckets, especially in the third quarter.
That brings us back to point guard play. Suburban didn't have a ballhander or defender that could keep pace with Tillotson. That showed, especially in the third quarter when the Trojans started giving the ball away and folding against Eastern's pressure defense. Right now, that might be the biggest difference between these two teams.