With the aftermath of Winter Storm Jonas still keeping athletes (and reporters) out of the gyms, we had a few minutes to catch our breath and reflect on the 2015-2016 basketball season. Four of our GameTimePA sports reporters answered five hot-topic questions regarding the YAIAA.
What team (boys or girls) has been the biggest surprise to you so far this season?
Brandon Stoneburg, York Daily Record: This could go a number of ways. In a positive light, William Penn and Susquehannock girls have both turned heads and York Catholic on the boys’ side has been a pleasant surprise. I think overall I’d go with William Penn girls’ basketball. Larry Corbin could be coach of the year for the job he has done. Going from seven wins to at least 12 (as of Jan. 26) and a likely YAIAA tournament appearance is an impressive turnaround.
Matt Allibone, The Evening Sun: York Catholic (boys). The Fighting Irish went 11-13 last season and lost leading scorer Paul Martello to graduation, but have been the class of Division III so far. First-year head coach Blaine Claiborne has done a great job molding a lineup that includes William Penn transfers Melik Martin and D'Andre Davis and returnee Andrew Forjan.
Christian Arnold, York Daily Record: The West York boys team has to standout as a bit of a surprise this year. The expectation was that they would have been one of the top dogs – no pun intended – in Division II, but things haven’t gone as predicted. The team sits in the middle of the pack with a 6-4 record in the division and a 9-6 record overall. Darian McCauley has had a solid season for the Bulldogs, but with so much promise at the beginning of the year it is quite surprising to see them where they currently stand.
Zach Miller, The Evening Sun: I’d say that has to be the Littlestown girls. After years of struggling and only winning a few games, the Bolts are 8-7 right now and sitting three spots out of the last District 3 AAA playoff spot. It’s no fluke, as coach Chris Myers has his team playing crisp offense and disciplined defense. They’re doing it with only one senior and just nine girls total, and the program doesn’t even field a JV team. I don’t think anyone outside of that locker room saw a winning season coming.
What is the best game you’ve seen this season?
Stoneburg: Spring Grove at Dallastown (boys). Eli Brooks put on a show. The junior scored 33 points on the road, rallied the Rockets from behind, sank two free throws to send the game to overtime, drained the game-winner in overtime and picked up a scholarship offer after the game. It was a frantic, back-and-forth game over the last two-plus quarters that had both fan sections on their feet.
Allibone: Central York 53, Spring Grove 50, Jan. 15 (boys). The rematch between the top two teams in Division I finished with the same final score as the first matchup on Dec. 8. Once again, the Panthers started fast and led by nine after the first quarter before holding off a late Rockets comeback attempt. Central York's Jared Wagner was dominant all game and finished with 25 points.
Arnold: I would have to give the nod to the Northeastern/Central York (boys) game played on Jan. 9. There was already plenty of buzz about this one with two of the league’s top teams going head-to-head at York College and add the fact that Northeastern’s Kobi Nwandu was the talk of the county, and you have a great game. The teams, as well as the student sections, battled back and forth all night before a playoff-like atmosphere. Nwandu and Central’s Jared Wagner both finished with double digit scoring.
Miller: Without a doubt, the best game I’ve seen was the Delone Catholic at York Catholic girls game earlier this month. It’s one of the area’s best rivalries in any sport, and both teams played at a high level all night long, making runs and countering each other. The end of regulation featured tons of drama with four free throws to either tie or win the game in the last two seconds, before the Squirettes prevailed in overtime. I can’t wait for the rematch on Friday.
What team (boys or girls) has the best chance to make a postseason run in your opinion?
Stoneburg: York Country Day (boys). With the addition of DeAireus Brown, the Greyhounds have been on another planet. They’ve been the faster, stronger, more athletic team nearly every time they’ve stepped on the court and in Class A, they have a great chance to make a run. They’re .15 district rating points ahead of the second-best team in Class A, so a district title is easily within reach. Keep an eye on Red Lion (girls), Central (boys) and Northeastern (boys) as well.
Allibone: On the boys side it has to be either Central York or Northeastern. I'll go Northeastern just because the Bobcats bested the Panthers when the two teams met on Jan. 9.
Arnold: This is a tough one, but at the end of the day I would pick the Central York girls to make some noise in the playoffs. Emma Saxton and Nikson Valencik are one of the best duos in Division I and have proven to be quite useful on both ends of the court. They’ve had plenty of help outside those two as well with Lydia Shellenberger being a key contributor and having Sarah Sepic come in off the bench. Their only losses of the year have come against division leading Red Lion and surprise success story William Penn. This appears to be a team that is deep enough to run the gauntlet with any team that comes their way.
Miller: This is a little outside the box, but I think it’s the York Country Day School boys. They haven’t lost a game all season and they’ll benefit from being a Class A school when the competition they face at districts isn’t as stiff as the competition teams like Central York, Northeastern and Eastern York face.
Who would you say is the MVP so far on the girls side?
Stoneburg: This one is tough. Her team’s record may not be great, but Northeastern’s Jordyn Kloster might be the best all-around player in the league. An argument could be made for Chyna Steele (William Penn), Courtney Dimoff (Red Lion) and really five or six other players as well. There’s a ton of balance on the girls’ side this season.
Allibone: Red Lion's Courtney Dimoff. The top player on the top team in Division I, Dimoff is always a threat to drop 20 points and has led the Lions to a 17-1 record so far.
Arnold: This is another toss up because there are a few good choices, but my vote would go to Susquehannock’s Ashley Stone. There is something to be said for the fact that coach Dave Schreiner has said in the past that Stone’s play dictates the performance of the team. The dual-sport athlete has been a major factor in the Warriors’ success this season putting up 12.5 points per game and finding her rhythm at the right moments. I think it’s safe to say that without Stone on the floor Susquehannock’s 17-2 record would look a bit different.
Miller: Courtney Dimoff, Red Lion. She can shoot from anywhere and makes plays on both sides of the ball to win games. She’s the biggest reason the Lions are 17-1.
Who would you say is the MVP so far on the boys side?
Stoneburg: It’s hard to argue against Eli Brooks here. It seems he’s the best player on the court any time he plays. The junior is averaging more than 26 points and is second in the league in 3-pointers made while leading Spring Grove to a 14-2 record. Others I’d consider because of how important they are to their team’s success: Jared Wagner (Central), Broguen Nicholas (Eastern), Kobi Nwandu (Northeastern) and Kyle Krout (Hanover).
Allibone: Spring Grove's Eli Brooks. The junior is the YAIAA's leading scorer and is a major reason the Rockets are 14-2. It's not a coincidence Spring Grove has gone from being a two-win team the year before Brooks arrived to being one of the top teams in Division I now. Central York's Jared Wagner, Northeastern's Kobi Nwandu and Hanover's Kyle Krout deserve to be in the conversation as well.
Arnold: Jared Wagner gets my vote because, similar to Stone, Central York’s record would look a little different if he wasn’t on the court. Wagner is Central’s most potent offensive weapon averaging 19.2 points per game, which is good for a top-five spot in the league in scoring. Wagner has battled some of the league’s top players and has been a major impact player for the Panthers, who clinched a share of the division last week. He’ll be a key factor once the postseason rolls around as to how much more basketball Central will get to play.
Miller: Eli Brooks, Spring Grove. He’s lived up to the hype this season, scoring in bunches and coming up big in big spots.