Eastern stays loose ahead of title tilt
When I headed over to Eastern York High School on Wednesday afternoon to check out the Golden Knights on the eve of their District 3 final against Lancaster Catholic, I expected to find a team with a focused, no-nonsense air about them.
Boy, was I wrong.
One of the hallmarks of this Eastern York team is how loose they've been throughout the season -- it's something several players have talked about during the last few months. Wednesday was no different.
Eastern head coach Larry Fisher started practice by playing a practical joke on his team, in which he pretended to kick seniors Nathan Bollinger and Davin Zimmerman off the team.
"I told Bollinger and Zimmerman, 'You're going to be in with me on this joke,'" Fisher said. "'I'm going to throw Bollinger off the team, and he's going to get in my face. Then Davin's supposed to stick up on his regard, and I kick him off, too.'"
The ploy worked. As Fisher pretended to boot both off the team, the rest of the Golden Knights looked stunned.
"I swear, I thought (junior point guard Austin Tillotson) was going to cry," Fisher said.
"I totally went for it," Tillotson said. "Then (Fisher) was like 'Just kidding.' And I was like 'What the heck?'"
Andrew Nicholas said he was also in on the joke. Bollinger, meanwhile, said he struggled to hold in his laughter during the charade.
"I usually wouldn't talk back to him," Bollinger said. "I was trying to keep a straight face."
If there were any fears about Eastern being tense ahead of its first district final in 22 years, those can be put to rest. None of which means Fisher isn't more-than-concerned about his team's opponent for Thursday.
"There's a reason they got through Hershey and Steel-High," Fisher said. "They're probably the best team from that side of the bracket that I saw. You can talk about seeding all you want. They're the hottest team. They're playing the best basketball.
"It's not walk in the park for either team. They're not going to beat themselves."
Eastern York last won a district title in 1988, when Jon Raab and a cast of others led the Golden Knights to the Class AA title.
One of the players from that team, Donnie Knaub, lent Fisher his district medal and a piece of the net from the title game to show off to the current Golden Knights.
"So I bought that in (Tuesday)," Fisher said. "We all took a look at it, got to hold it a little bit and talk about just what it means.
"We talked about getting those guys and and these guys together," Fisher said of the 1988 team, "but the schedules didn't work out."
The Eastern players seem to have at least a cursory understanding of the historical significance of going for the Eastern York area's fourth district title. Tillotson said he learned about Eastern York's 22-year district title drought when he looked the record up in this year's district program.
Nicholas, meanwhile, talked about winning a district title for the Wrightsville community.
"The community's been behind us all year," Nicholas said. "They travel, and a lot of people come to our games. It's important for us."