Top memories from 2017 YAIAA basketball (column)
The York-Adams basketball season saw deep postseason runs, program milestones and numerous champions. Recap the highlights from the 2016-17 season. Sean Heisey, GameTimePA.com
It certainly was a memorable season.
From great players, great teams and deep playoff runs, 2016-17 YAIAA basketball was one wild ride.
My top memories, in a nutshell:
Bobcats make history
This was a special team — one that entered the season with high expectations and lived up to the billing.
First, there were the personalities.
Senior point guard Austin Greene was a solid presence throughout the year who played his game effectively. His fellow senior running mate, forward Brandon Coleman, came on strong down the stretch and showed up big when it mattered most. Coleman put together some MVP-type performances in a handful of Bobcat playoff victories.
Joining them were breakout players Fred Mulbah and Antonio Rizzuto.
The ultra-athletic Mulbah had a knack for playing loose and free even in the biggest moments. As he went, typically the team followed.
Rizzuto, on the other hand, played with increased aggression this year and was more than just a shooter. At least once a contest it seemed the junior threw down a rim-rattling dunk.
That guard tandem formed quite the one-two punch.
Those were firsts for head coach Jon Eyster, and historic achievements for Northeastern boys’ basketball as a whole.
A crazy, crazy year. A great year. And a year that won’t be forgotten.
Northeastern senior starters Brandon Coleman and Austin Greene stood out for their leadership and fearless attitudes this season during the boys' basketball team's run to a state semifinal. Jim Seip, GameTimePA.com
Eli Brooks’ final season
Every night, no matter the gym or opponent, you never knew what Brooks was going to pull off on the high school hardwood. The only certainty is that it would be unforgettable.
On the season, Brooks scored 901 points and averaged over 12 rebounds per game. Think about both of those stats for just a moment.
First off, local high school players are honored for scoring 1,000 points in a career. Brooks nearly pulled off the feat in a 31-game season. That’s unreal.
Secondly, the senior grabbed double-digit rebounds as a 6-foot-2 point guard. He controlled the glass like none other, even from the backcourt where he acted as the team’s primary ball-handler.
Brooks also elevated the play of those around him. He averaged nearly four assists per game as the Rockets advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals and won their first state tournament game in program history.
He came in first place in another category as well: character.
It’ll be tough forgetting Brooks interacting with fans after games, posing for photos and signing autographs. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve never seen a high school player do that before.
Brooks will go on and play at Michigan next year. Don’t be surprised if he eventually becomes a star on the next level. He's got the game and mental makeup to pull it off.
Spring Grove's Eli Brooks is having another standout season in his senior year. Hear what his teammates and an opponent have to say about playing alongside and against the University of Michigan recruit. Jim Seip, GameTimePA.com
District titles, deep playoff runs
On the girls’ side of the ledger, two teams made memorable state playoff runs — Susquehannock and York Catholic. Each won District 3 titles and advanced to the state semifinals.
The Warriors rounded into form at the right time. After losing in the first round of the YAIAA tournament to New Oxford, Susquehannock went on to win the District 3 Class 5A tournament with a 44-42 upset of No. 1-seeded Harrisburg. Jaden Walker free throws in the final seconds clinched the victory.
The Warriors would continue rolling, rebounding to beat New Oxford, 51-34, in the PIAA tournament. The team would then down Southern Lehigh in the quarterfinals — a program which topped Mastery Charter North, 77-47, in the previous round.
As for York Catholic, the Irish are typically defined by their postseason success — and their multiple meetings every season against Delone Catholic. Sure enough, those two teams played for the District 3 Class 3A title, with York Catholic beating the Squirettes, 57-46, to take home its 11th district championship in 12 years.
The Irish then battled their way to the state semis, with a team-defining win coming against undefeated St. Basil Academy in the PIAA quarterfinals. York Catholic went scoreless in first quarter — and it trailed, 20-9, at halftime — before mounting a 40-31 comeback victory.
There was another district champion coming out of the area as well – that being the York Country Day boys, who won the District 3 Class 1A title in convincing fashion. The Greyhounds dominated the district tournament, highlighted by Jordan Ray, DeAireus Brown and Jalen Gorham. Ray, headed to Hampton to play football next year, leaves as the school's career leader in scoring, and Brown will graduate after surpassing 1,000 career points.
YCD appeared to be legitimate state title contenders, only to fall in a 75-72 overtime heartbreaker to Girard College in the PIAA semifinals.
All in all, York-Adams teams represented the region well at the district and state levels in 2017.
York Catholic managed to win the District 3 championship against league rival Delone Catholic, and Irish head coach Kevin Bankos crossed off another milestone by winning his 300th career game. Jim Seip, GameTimePA.com
Back for more?
There were good teams with good players this year. Expect that trend to continue in 2018.
The Susquehannock girls return four starters: Walker, Jayla Galbreath, Taylor Tannura and Anna Mahon. They should be back and ready to roll once again.
York Catholic star Kate Bauhof will return as a senior to lead the Irish. Couple that with emerging wing Jania Wright — and the fact York Catholic had just one senior on this year’s roster — and the program figures to be locked and loaded once again.
YAIAA champion Central York will lose Emma Saxton, but it will bring back frontcourt players Teirra Preston and Nikson Valencik. Sarah Sepic will also return after emerging as a valuable piece to the Panthers as a spot-up 3-point shooter who made winning plays.
Hannah Myers was one of the area’s top players this past year as a junior at Eastern York. She’ll be back as the Golden Knights look to build off of their 2017 postseason appearance.
Both the Dover girls and boys return quality players: Rajah Fink figures to be a standout senior with a girls’ team that emerged as a state tournament program this year. For the boys, Keith Davis will be a junior for a squad loaded with underclassmen that won YAIAA Division II and advanced to the District 3 Class 5A tournament.
Also, at Dallastown, both boys’ and girls’ programs figure to return a solid core of players after each qualified for district tournaments this past year.
And for the Northeastern boys, Mulbah and Rizzuto return to lead the Bobcats as seniors. Nate Wilson is coming off a freshman season that saw the 6-foot-2 wing shoot the ball effectively. And while there were young bench players that didn’t see much court time in 2017, they almost assuredly got valuable experience practicing against a state title contender on a day-to-day basis.
Warriors fall in PIAA semifinals, reflect on state playoff run. (Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com)