Eastern simply too much for Suburban
Thanks to mother nature, we had to wait a few more days to see Eastern York's much-hyped rematch with York Suburban. After three tight quarters, the still-undefeated Golden Knights eventually pulled away to a 57-45 victory to sew up the Division III title.
I wasn't at a sold-out York Suburban High School on Monday, but I was able to catch the game on our GameTimePA live feed. Here's a sort of stream-of-conscious reaction to the contest.
I want to start here, because this is the point in the game where Eastern York exerted its will.
The quarter started with a great coaching move from Larry Fisher. Throughout the game, York Suburban tucked back into a zone, presumably to neutralize Eastern's great speed and ball-handling ability. But with Eastern up five, Fisher was determined to force Suburban out of its comfort zone (no pun intended) and into a man-to-man set, where the Golden Knights' guards could be at their most effective.
What resulted was a sort of awkward standoff for the first two minutes of the fourth quarter. Eastern's Austin Tillotson stood near the half-court line, as Suburban stood in its zone. Suburban had no choice -- Tillotson could have stood out there for eight minutes if he wanted to. The Trojans had to come out of their zone. And once that happened, Eastern's guards took over.
The Golden Knights scored on 10 of their 11 possessions in the fourth quarter (I'm not counting the final possession of the game, in which Eastern held onto the ball to run the clock out). Many of those baskets came off turnovers, but that standoff at the beginning of the frame set the tone for the rest of the game.
Here's possession-by-possession breakdown of the Eastern York offense in the fourth quarter:
1. After sitting on the ball for two minutes, Nathan Bollinger drives in for an easy left-handed lay-up.
2. Off a steal, Andrew Nicholas is fouled going up for a dunk. He hits both FTs.
3. Off a steal, Austin Tillotson misses a lay-up.
4. Ryky Smith hits Luke Barto for a driving baseline lay-up.
5. Tillotson is fouled and hits two free throws.
6. Tillotson steals and streaks in for a lay-up.
7. Tillotson hits a runner in the lane.
8. Nicholas puts back a Tillotson miss.
9. After a steal, Nicholas leans in and hits a lay-up.
10. Smith hits 1-of-2 free throws.
11. Nicholas gets a lay-up in transition.
12. No shot (fourth quarter runs out).
Also worth noting: All those baskets were scored from in close, if not in the paint than barely outside it.
State of Suburban
Let's start by saying this about York Suburban: I thought they played fairly well. They had a game plan that was able -- for at least three quarters -- to mask their deficiencies and Eastern's superiority at the guard position. The Trojans were able to frustrate Austin Tillotson for much of the night by clogging the lane, holding him to two points in the first half. And Thomas McInerney and Kevin Donahue -- two of the elite players in thisi league who probably don't get talked about enough -- were their usual, stat-stuffing selves. Donahue had 22 points and hit five 3-pointers. And you wonder what sort of numbers McInerney would have been able to put up had he not played most of the night in foul trouble.
To me, this game says a lot more about Eastern than it does Suburban. The Golden Knights played a lower-scoring, slowed down style much of the night -- which suited the Trojans -- and still were able to grind out a win.
Suburban is a very good team -- as evidenced by the fact that no one other than Eastern has been able to beat them this year. I think in a lot of ways this is sort of a nightmare matchup for Suburban. Perhaps Eastern strengths (team speed across the board, impeccable guard play) happen to be areas in which the Trojans aren't quite as strong.
State of Eastern
So exactly how good are the Golden Knights? If you believe the latest District 3 power rankings, they're the top team in the district. I have a hard time arguing with that assessment.
I've said it a lot recently -- there's a lot more to this team than offense. The Golden Knights have shown an ability to win in different ways. So much of what Eastern was able to do in the fourth quarter started on the defensive end (Eastern forced five turnovers in the final frame). But before that, the Golden Knights got bit contributions from Mark Bailey (two treys off the bench) and hard-working guard Ryky Smith (eight points).
The Golden Knights did not shoot the ball particularly well on Monday. Tillotson struggled through stretches, a rarity for him. And Eastern still came up with the plays at the end to win the game. That says something, and it certainly is an encouraging sign going forward into district play. So is Andrew Nicholas scoring 25 points, and doing so from all over the court.
And now the Golden Knights (21-0) are one game away from an undefeated regular season with the YAIAA tournament on the horizon.
Overall, I found this to be an extremely entertaining game. There was more than a hint of the rivalry in both team's play, with some chippy moments and physical play down low. Bottom line: These are without a doubt two of the top teams in District 3. Who knows? Maybe we'll see these two face off again before the season's up.