Bold predictions for YAIAA basketball season
Bobcats ready to contend in 2016-17 Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com
Another basketball season is here, and with it comes plenty of questions and debates.
Which teams will rise to the top of their respective divisions? Which will surprise us? There's certainly plenty of things that will begin to be answered when the season tips off Friday.
York-Adams GameTimePA reporters Matt Allibone and Teddy Feinberg take a look at a few burning questions and offer some hot takes:
New look team has a veteran touch. Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com
Which teams will win Division I?
Matt's take: On the boys' side, I'm picking defending YAIAA champion Spring Grove to win the title over Division I newcomer Northeastern. The Bobcats bring back a pair of talented guards in Fred Mulbah and Antonio Rizzuto, but the Rockets return 2016 GameTimePA Player of the Year Eli Brooks. Word on the street is he's pretty good. I know Spring Grove lost a couple of strong role players from last season, but I think coach James Brooks has a few players (Drew Gordon, Austin Panter) ready to step up.
For the girls, I'm taking New Oxford in a close race over Red Lion and Central York. The Lions and Panthers both have experienced cores that know how to win, but the Colonials bring back every single player from last year's district playoff team. They're motivated to win now.
Teddy's take: In boys, give me Northeastern.
This is in no way, shape or form to diminish the greatness of Eli Brooks. He's the league's best player hands down. I just like the Bobcats — a team that always has horses — to break through in their first year in Division I. This is the right move for them.
In girls, I expect Central York to take home the title. No doubt New Oxford is a very good team, but they're also in unfamiliar territory this year — in the role of favorite. Central, on the other hand, easily could have won the league last year — the Panthers lost to Red Lion on two late free throws in the YAIAA title game — and return wing player Emma Saxton and frontcourt stalwart Nikson Valencik. It's the Panthers' time to take it.
I do respect defending champ Red Lion, which returns six seniors total and moved Bill Novak into the head coaching seat this offseason. The Lions will be in the thick of things as well.
Four-year starter Jared Achterberg has high hopes for senior season. (Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com)
Which teams will win Division II?
Matt's take: Division II will look much different this year on the boys' side. Northeastern is gone, Gettysburg is replacing all of last year's lineup and West York has big holes to fill, too. I'm taking Eastern York to win the division. The Golden Knights reached the district title game last season and bring back three returning starters in Jared Achterberg, Evan Springer and Dominic Particelli.
On the girls' side, I'm going with York Suburban. While Susquehannock was the class of that division last season and West York has plenty of talent, the Trojans rightfully feel this is their year. They bring back three starters in Georgia DuMars, Parker Faircloth-Henise and junior Ali Reinecker.
Teddy's take: Eastern York is my pick on the boys' side.
They were quality last year, and while they lose Broguen Nicholas (18 points per game last year) to graduation, they bring back Jared Achterberg in the frontcourt and Jon Reichard courtside. I think they can carry the torch.
The girls' side of things appears wide open. I'm going to go with defending champion Susquehannock out of respect. I think West York rebounds this season and battles it out at or near the top of the standings, and I will not overlook York Suburban and head coach Jess Barley, who always seems to have her team prepared.
Senior Parker Faircloth-Henise talks about Trojans defensive acumen Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com
Which teams will win Division III?
Matt's take: This one's easy for me. York Catholic won this division last season and brings back its core in senior sharpshooter Andrew Forjan (10.7 points per game), lightning-quick guard D'Andre Davis (13.1) and athletic forward Melik Martin (14.0). I think Delone Catholic could be a contender, but it's the Irish's title to lose.
The girls' side is much tougher to pick. York Catholic and Delone Catholic split the title last season and should both be really good again. It would be a cop-out to predict a tie though, so I'll go with the Irish.
Teddy's take: Catholic all the way in boys.
The Irish bring back the talent and athleticism, and head coach Blaine Claiborne did a nice job there last year. I don't know what team could challenge them for the top spot.
As for girls, I'm rolling with Delone Catholic. The Squirettes have size seldom seen in girls' basketball — three 6-footers in Jill Novak (6-foot), Bradi Zumbrum (6-foot) and Catie Apgar (6-foot-2), along with the 5-foot-8 Elise Knobloch — and that can be a lot to contend with.
Who's your make-or-break player for each division?
Matt's take: Eli Brooks is certainly the best player in the league, but after him I'd say Northeastern's Mulbah is the player to watch. He averaged 9.8 points last season, but the Bobcats need someone to fill the void left by Kobi Nwandu and Mulbah should be the guy. In Division II, I think Achterberg will emerge as the leader of Eastern York while Forjan will be the glue that holds York Catholic together in Division III.
There are numerous Division I girls you could pick, notably Central York's Emma Saxton, Red Lion's Amy Maciejewski, New Oxford's Kaelyn Long and South Western's Taylor Geiman. I'm going with Saxton, who led the Panthers with 13.5 points per game last year. In Division II, I'll cheat a little and give it to Dover sisters Rayah and Rajah Fink. They'll be the top players on an Eagles team that could surprise people.
York Catholic's Kate Bauhof is the clear pick to me in Division III. The junior led the league in scoring at 21.7 points per game last year as a sophomore.
Teddy's take: I've been on the Mulbah train from the get-go — way to take my pick, Allibone. I'll go with him and also his backcourt running mate Antonio Rizzuto. They could be dynamic. In D-II I have my eye on Achterberg and in D-III I want to see Melik Martin tower over the competition.
In girls, Long is a great athlete — she has a field hockey scholarship to Bucknell which is no small feat — and I want to see her lead the Colonials. In D-II, it's not one player but the team concept surrounding Susquehannock, West York and York Suburban that I want to see unfold. Best team wins there.
In D-III, while Bauhof is an elite scorer in the league, I want to see how Delone's Catholic's Novak responds after missing most of last season with a torn ACL. Much of the team's success will be dictated by her and her towering teammates.