With the thrilling YAIAA boys' basketball playoffs behind us, it's time to look ahead to the first round of the District 3 tournament, which starts Tuesday and Wednesday.
All first-round games played at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Top eight teams advance to states.
No. 1 Central York (20-2) vs. No. 16 Shippensburg (17-7): Expect Central to come out with a chip on their shoulder after suffering a heartbreaking loss to Spring Grove in Saturday's YAIAA title game. After starting the season 8-6, the Greyhounds have won nine of their last 10 games, including a 46-34 win against Red Lion in the preliminary round. They also have wins against YAIAA foes Gettysburg and New Oxford earlier in the season. Central's lockdown defender Jared Wagner could draw the assignment of guarding Wade Mills, who averaged 14.1 points this season and scored in double figures in all but three games.
No. 4 Spring Grove (21-2) vs. No. 13 Central Dauphin East (14-9): Look at how far the Rockets have come. Just two years removed from a seven-win season, the Rockets could be the hottest team in the district after winning their first YAIAA title since 1971. Can they stay focused and avoid a title hangover? Spring Grove lost in the first round of districts last year, but that was on the road against the No. 1 team in the district. This time, the Rockets will host an opponent that seems beatable on paper. The Panthers have been up and down all season, and they're coming off a 61-48 win against Chambersburg in the preliminary round. Keep an eye on Brennan Jackson, who scored a season-high 24 points in the preliminary round.
No. 10 William Penn (12-10) vs. No. 7 Carlisle (16-5): The last time we saw the Bearcats, they were getting wiped off the floor by Northeastern in the YAIAA tournament. They've had nearly two weeks to let that sink in. How will they respond in districts, where they've won two straight AAAA titles? They'll be the more experienced team when they travel to Carlisle. But the Thundering Herd have won four in a row and handed Central York one of just three losses on the season back in early January.
No. 3 Northeastern (21-2) vs. No. 14 Wilson (16-8): The highest-scoring team in the YAIAA — Northeastern — hosts Wilson, which lost four of the last six entering the district playoffs. On paper, you could make the argument that Northeastern still looks like the strongest, most balanced team in the league, despite losing in the YAIAA semifinals. A deep playoff run could help prove that. The Bulldogs went 1-1 against YAIAA foes this season, beating Red Lion by two and losing to Central, 51-38. Keep an eye on Wilson's Christian Sload, who averaged nearly 20 points per game in the regular season.
All first-round games played at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Top six teams advance to states.
No. 8 West York (12-8) vs. No. 9 Berks Catholic (16-8): The Bulldogs seemed to be getting hot at the right time, having won six in a row until they ran into Northeastern and Central York. West York was hard to figure out in the regular season. After being projected as a top threat to Northeastern in YAIAA Division II, the Bulldogs struggled at times on both ends of the floor. They didn't have any terrible losses, but they didn't have any eye-opening wins, either. Meanwhile, the Saints won 13 of their last 15 after starting the season 3-6.
No. 4 Eastern York (19-5) vs. No. 13 Middletown (14-8): Among the YAIAA teams in Class AAA, the Golden Knights get the easiest draw. Using a balanced lineup that including Broguen Nicholas, Jared Achterberg and Jarad Woods, Eastern won 16 of its last 18 games. Four of the Knights' five losses came to Class AAAA powerhouses Central and Northeastern. Eastern's challenge will be containing Middletown sophomore Ryan Hughes, who averaged 19 points this season.
No. 15 Dover (13-10) vs. No. 2 Lampeter-Strasburg (21-2): What's Dover's reward for beating East Pennsboro in the prelims? A matchup with L-L Section 3 champ Lampeter-Strasburg, which improved from an 11-win team in 2014-2015 to a 21-win team this season. The Pioneers' only losses this season came to Cocalico and Cedar Crest, and they have two players — Matt Achille and Ben Sandberg — who averaged at least 13 points. The Eagles got on a little bit of a roll at the end of the season, winning five of their last six. But they were the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of the YAIAA with wins against Camp Hill, Eastern and West York, but two losses to York Suburban.
No. 10 Gettysburg (12-8) vs. No. 7 Palmyra (17-5): The good news is the Warriors — who were the only YAIAA team to advance to states in Class AAA last season — are in nearly the exact same spot where they started districts last season. The bad news is they've lost six of their last nine, and their best win of the season (a 57-55 win against Shippensburg) was more than two months ago. One interesting note in this matchup: Gettysburg had the toughest schedule among AAA playoffs teams, while Palmyra had the second-easiest.
First-round games played Wednesday. Top three teams advance to states.
No. 5 Hanover (16-7) vs. No. 4 Upper Dauphin (21-3), Saturday: Hanover gets a quarterfinal rematch with Upper Dauphin, which the Nighthawks dispatched easily, 93-67, in last year's district quarterfinals. Both rosters have gone through changes since then, and this game will be played 75 miles away in Upper Dauphin. The Trojans haven't lost since Dec. 19 and have 12 double-digit wins since then. The most intriguing matchup to watch will be Hanover's Kyle Krout vs. Matthew Miller. Both guards averaged at least 20 points.
No. 7 Delone Catholic (10-12) vs. No. 10 Antietam (9-13), Wednesday: Two sub-.500 teams face off Wednesday in the first round with the winner getting No. 2 Trinity on Saturday. Delone was projected to be a team on the rise after last season's 11-11 finish but digressed in the win column. All 10 wins came against YAIAA Division III teams with losing records. On the positive side, Delone did have the fifth-best defense in the league, and Logan Alexander emerged as a quality scoring threat. And even with their struggles, the Squires will be favored at home. The Mountaineers also finished below .500, and their best win over a Class AA opponent came against Kutztown, which finished 7-11.
No. 3 York Catholic (17-5) vs. No. 6 Lancaster Mennonite (12-12), Saturday: These teams met in late January when Melik Martin scored 21 points to lead the Irish to a 70-60 victory. York Catholic will look to repeat that performance and earn a trip to the Giant Center for first-year head coach Blaine Claiborne.
First-round games played Tuesday. Top four teams advance to states.
No. 1 York Country Day (19-0) vs. No. 8 Veritas Academy (12-8) or No. 9 New Covenant Christian (10-9), Friday: With the help of Northeastern transfers D.J. Hamilton and DeAireus Brown, and mainstay Jordan Ray, the Greyhounds took Class A by storm this season. York Country Day won all 19 games, albeit against the weakest schedule of any Class A team, with only two opponents coming within 10 points. They're in a prime position to make a district title and potential state playoff run if they continue to play their game. The Greyhounds haven't played Veritas this season but beat New Covenant, 84-39.