In the final minutes of Friday's PIAA tournament first-round game, Eastern York senior Ryan Kalke looked over and saw little-used freshman Stephen Wisler sitting on the bench. Kalke, playing in his final game in an Eastern uniform, asked head coach Jon Reichard to take him out in favor of Wisler, so the freshman could get on the floor.
In the end, the selfless act wouldn't mean much outside of Eastern's locker room. The Golden Knights' season still came to an end, 77-45, to Imhotep. But what Kalke did was a symbol of what Eastern York stands for, Reichard said.
"That was one of the greatest things I've seen in my 21 years coaching," Reichard said. "That really symbolizes this bunch. ... The way those kids who were mostly freshmen went out there and competed at the end shows we have some talent on this team and we're going to hang around for a while."
Reichard was emptying his bench because the game had gotten out of hand. The perennial District 12 Class AAA powerhouse that won a state title in 2013 and reached the semifinals last season, Imhotep dominated the Golden Knights from start to finish. The Knights committed eight turnovers in the first quarter and trailed 9-0 before scoring their first points.
"I think we had a little bit of nerves in the beginning," Reichard said. "We got off to another slow start ... and if you play a team like this, you can't get down early."
Broguen Nicholas scored 16 of his 17 points in the first half, including Eastern's first 10 points. But the Knights still trailed 38-22 at the half. Highly touted 2017 recruit Daron Russell scored 11 of his game-high 18 in the second quarter, then added seven more in the third as Imhotep pulled away down the stretch.
"How much talent can one team have?" Reichard said of the Panthers. "They just kept coming with talented guys off the bench. They're extremely talented and one of the best teams in the state for a reason. I thought our kids competed until the buzzer went off and I'm extremely proud of them. We talked in the locker room that it's a tough way to go out, but what a ride it has been."
Eastern finished the season 22-7 and bid farewell to seven seniors including Nicholas, who received a standing ovation as he walked off the floor for the final time in the fourth quarter.
"We knew we were going to have some strong leaders this season with Broguen (Nicholas) and Jarad Woods," Reichard said. "I think it has trickled down to kids in the community. All the little kids were at the district run and the junior high team was abuzz. Kids are going to go out and work harder on their game because this unifies us from top to bottom."
Reichard admitted that the Golden Knights even exceeded his expectations this season.
"Our goal was to get to the Giant Center," he said. "From the beginning we wanted to get to the county playoffs, then get to the Giant Center. We accomplished both so this was kind of icing on the cake. It was a tough draw for the first round but it is what it is."
Imhotep 77, Eastern York 45
Daron Russell 7 2-2 18, Jaekwon Carlyle 5 0-0 11, D. Scott 4 2-2 11, Thomas 4 0-0 9, Townsend 3 2-3 8, Lightrey 3 0-0 7, Westey 1 3-3 5, Cousins 2 0-0 4, Mashloum 1 0-2 3, Bishop 0 1-2 1. Totals — 30 10-14 77.
Eastern York (45)
Broguen Nicholas 6 1-3 17, Achterberg 3 0-2 6, Woods 2 1-2 5, Springer 1 2-4 5, Henise 1 1-3 3, Wisler 1 0-0 3, Kurnik1 0-0 2, Kalke 0 2-2 2, Particelli 1 0-0 2, Bernstein 0 0-2 0. Totals — 16 7-18 45.
Imhotep_ 20_ 18 _ 23 _ 16 _ — _ 77
Eastern York _ 12 _ 10 _ 12 _ 11 _ — _ 45
3-point goals — IM 7 (Russell 2, Scott, Thomas, Mashloum, Lightrey, Carlyle), EY 6 (Nicholas 4, Wisler, Springer).