Thursday roundup: Two trophies for York County
I'm a little late with this, but I thought I should weigh in with my thoughts on last night's district hoops doubleheader.
I'll start with the Eastern York boys' victory over Lancaster Catholic, because that alone was worth the price of admission.
What a game. Eastern threw what looked to be a knockout blow early. Lancaster Catholic responded with a combo of their own. And while I'll stop with the boxing analogy while I'm ahead, it was fitting that this game came down the very last second. Eastern coach Larry Fisher said beforehand the Crusaders were the best team he'd seen in the district tournament, and he wasn't lying.
You had know the Golden Knights weren't going to keep up the out-of-this-world shooting display they put up in the first half. Fisher certainly knew. Sometime during that barrage, he recalled turned to his assistants and saying "It's not going to be this easy." Not even a team that practices shooting as much as Eastern does can hit 75 percent of their shots the entire game. (I attended their practice Wednesday, and they ended the workout with 20 minutes of non-stop jump shooting ... each player must have gotten up 100-plus shots.)
As Eastern predictably cooled, Lancaster Catholic's Tyler Purvis caught fire. The senior guard (whose brother, Ryan, plays tight end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) canned 3-pointers and got to the hole with relative ease. He scored 17 first-half points on 6-of-8 shooting, helping LC cut its halftime deficit to 10.
Really, Eastern never looked all-that comfortable after its remarkable first quarter. Andrew Nicholas and Austin Tillotson struggled in the second half, shooting 1-of-6 and 2-of-8, respectively, in that time frame. But the Golden Knights did just enough on both ends of the floor. They held Lancaster Catholic to five fourth-quarter points, and forced a crucial five-second call with 1:05 left. That allowed Eastern to hold for one.
Which brings us to Nathan Bollinger. Fisher has talked at length about the senior transfer's importance to this team. Last night, he turned a broken play on Eastern's last possession into a game-winning bucket, driving into the lane, swiveling and putting up a short jumper that bounded off the back rim and in.
Fisher had a telling quote about Bollinger after the game.
"I just feel like he's here for a reason, he wanted to play in these moments," Fisher said. "Now all the biggest moments in the last 20 years at Eastern have come. Maybe it's because he's here, I'm not sure."
This win should give Eastern no shortage of confidence heading into the state playoffs. The Golden Knights have been on the right end of so many blowouts this year. This was only the second time this season one of their games has been decided by single-digits, and the first time the contest came down to its final possession.
"I think right now, we've been through everything that's been thrown at us," Bollinger said. "They're a real good team."
Finally, a funny side note: After the game, Fisher walked into the locker room and was greeted with a cooler-full of water dumped on him by his players. He emerged from the locker room a few minutes later with a sweatshirt on instead of his shirt-and-tie. When I asked Andrew Nicholas about it afterward, he said the team had actually tried to douse Fisher after their county championship game ... but missed. How you whiff on a water cooler dump is beyond me.
Then again, I guess there are worse ways to botch the Gatorade bath. Just ask Nick Saban.
As for the Irish...
This program continues to amaze. Even with their hands-down second-best player out -- senior Brittany Hicks sat out due to a concussion suffered in the district semis -- York Catholic still looked the better basketball team. Yes, I thought Lancaster Mennonite played a bit tentative, and the Blazers certainly made some sloppy turnovers. But all game the Irish seemed comfortable, just waiting for the right time to flip on the afterburners and pull away.
It's because they make it look so easy sometimes that this whole five-in-a-row thing can go under-appreciated. York Catholic is the first girls' team to win five straight District 3 titles in Class AA or higher. Lebanon Catholic won five single-A titles in a row from 1992-96, and six straight from 1999-2004.
Of course, Kady Schrann has been a big reason for the last three crowns. She was simply outstanding yesterday. Her 23 points represented around 60 percent of the Irish's production on Thursday. If she didn't have a hand in every York Catholic basket in the second half, it had to be close.
Keep in mind, this team is young. Hicks graduates after this year, yes. But the Irish have three sophomore starters that will only get better. And you can bet Schrann will up her game another rung or two before next season rolls around.
In the meantime, this team will turn it sights to the state playoffs. Of course, a fifth-straight finals appearance won't be easy. But this team has shown time-and-again its ability to peak at the right time. With Schrann in the fold, there's no reason to doubt the Irish getting there, even if an impressive-looking Villa Maria side may be waiting for them again in the title game.
Last but not least, here's the links roundup from yesterday:
-- Game story from Eastern York-Lancaster Catholic.
-- Game story from York Catholic-Lancaster Mennonite.
-- Feature story on Irish senior Brittany Hicks' absence.
-- Notebook on all the action from the Giant Center.