YAIAA boys' hoops preview: Northeastern enters Division I fray
Bobcats ready to contend in 2016-17 Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com
The Northeastern boys' basketball team seems to always have the horses, and the Bobcats' move from YAIAA Division II to Division I this season is sure to shake up the division races.
Of course, Spring Grove won last year’s YAIAA championship, and the Rockets have Michigan commit Eli Brooks running the show at point guard. Central York had a great season a year ago and head coach Kevin Schieler is sure to have his troops ready come tip off.
And don’t overlook Dallastown, which has a solid backcourt and looks to play up-tempo style on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.
But the Bobcats figure to be at or near the top of the standings, pushing the above-mentioned teams and whoever else comes their way in 2016-17. Keep an eye on Northeastern's athletic backcourt combination of Fred Mulbah and Antonio Rizzuto.
“We think we’re pretty talented,” said head coach Jon Eyster. “We won’t be real deep, but we have a good shooting team. If we can defend and rebound, we’ll be OK.”
Here's a look at eight other storylines to watch in YAIAA boys' basketball this season:
William Penn enters new era
The Bearcats have a new head coach at the helm.
Clovis Gallon takes over for Troy Sowers, who coached the Bearcats for 10 years, leading the program to three district titles and a state runner-up finish.
Gallon is no stranger to William Penn High School, though. He was an assistant coach under Sowers, who Gallon said incorporated him into the many administrative duties that are required of being a head coach.
“I stepped in, and (Sowers) made the transition seamless in that respect,” Gallon said.
The head coach also said his familiarity with the community, school and players has aided in his transition.
“A lot of these guys I’ve known my whole life,” Gallon said.
For the program, it’s a fresh start following Sowers’ successful tenure.
“Defense first,” guard Jacquez Casiano said of the team’s mentality entering the new year. “I think we can be pretty good again. We’ll bring a lot of energy to the court, and see what happens.”
Sleeper status for Dallastown?
The Wildcats could be entering the season somewhat underrated, but opponents would be wise not to overlook Dallastown. Be on high alert for the electric backcourt combination of Brandon McGlynn and Donovan Catchings.
During GameTimePA's YAIAA winter media day last month, the players and head coach Mike Grassel indicated that the team plans to run an up-tempo offense, one that feeds off a trapping and pressing defensive system.
“Our profile is go, go, go,” Grassel said.
Eastern York look to build off successful season
Four-year starter Jared Achterberg has high hopes for senior season. (Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com)
The Golden Knights were a standout team last season, compiling a 21-7 record and 10-3 mark in YAIAA Division II play.
Eastern York reached the District 3 Class 3A title game (where it lost to Bishop McDevitt, 71-47) and also qualified for the PIAA tournament (where they fell in the opening round to Imhotep, 71-45).
Still, it was a productive year for the Golden Knights.
This year, the team will have to replace Broguen Nicholas, who averaged 17.6 points per game and drilled 53 3-pointers last season.
The Golden Knights do return size, however. Back are frontcourt stalwarts Jared Achterberg, Evan Springer and Dom Particelli.
“I think the expectations are still there for us,” Achterberg said. “It is a goal for us to get back to Giant Center. We want to really rally the up-and-coming kids for the same goal as we had last year.”
Competition is wide open
Division II won’t be short on intrigue this season. Lining up behind preseason favorite Eastern York are a stack of hopefuls, many of them led by new coaches, that should make this division the league’s toughest to handicap.
That has buoyed the hopes of the three teams that finished in the bottom tier of the standings last year: Susquehannock, York Suburban and Kennard-Dale. The Warriors bring back more experience than almost anyone in the division, while the Trojans and Rams have renewed optimism under the direction of new head coaches Tom Triggs and Jake Roupe, respectively.
“We have four key seniors coming back, and then we’ve got five other juniors with a lot of experience,” Susky head coach John Zerfing said. “I don’t think I’ve had as much varsity experience returning as we do this year. I’m really looking forward to this year.”
The first cycle through the league schedule should help identify the division's pecking order. Success early in the season could be an important confidence boost in that regard.
“The division is wide open, and everyone will be competitive,” Roupe said. “I’m looking forward to it. Everyone has lost a lot, including us. A lot of people don’t know what we have coming back, and we don’t know what they have coming back. It will be interesting.”
West York in transition
Plenty of eyes will be on West York this season as the Bulldogs will be playing under a new head coach for the first time in nearly two decades.
Red Lion grad Garrett Bull takes the reins for the Bulldogs after highly successful longtime coach Bill Ackerman retired after last year’s 12-9 campaign. There will be a few changes in store for the Bulldogs, but for the most part Bull wants to simply keep the West York program humming — and retain those intangibles that led to so many wins for Ackerman’s clubs.
“They’re tough kids,” Bull said. “You always knew that when you went to play West York. I can remember playing West York when I was in school. You knew you were going to be in a dogfight, whether you had more talent or not. It really didn’t matter. We want to keep that going.”
The Bulldogs were hit hard by graduation losses. Just two returnees, senior forward Kenton Meckley and senior guard Anthony Hawkins, saw significant minutes last season. They will be leaned on heavily as the rest of the lineup gets up to varsity speed.
“I’m not going to look at it as a pressure situation,” Meckley said. “I’m just going to do what I do best. I’m going to play my game and try to lead the guys. At the end of the day I’m not worried about being the highest point scorer. I’m going to do the little things to help the win game and be the guy that keeps everybody positive.”
Gettysburg rebuilding after making PIAA playoffs
The past two years, Gettysburg has entered the District 3 tournament no higher than the 10th seed but still managed to qualify for the state playoffs. But that won't be an easy task to achieve this season.
The Warriors need to replace all five of last season's starters, including forward Ravaughn Dillard, who recently transferred. That means new contributors will need to emerge, and players with limited varsity experience like David Buxton and Cade Eckhart will be relied on.
One of the biggest voids the Warriors will have to fill is athleticism. Dillard and guard Marquise Camel were both exceptionally quick and could get to the basket. Still, head coach Jeff Bair said Gettysburg should be fine in that category.
"We're going to be more athletic than people think," Bair said. "We had a couple exceptional (athletes) last year, but overall our team speed is going to be good. We transition every year and play different every year toward the strengths of players we have."
Hanover looks for new backcourt leaders
It's fair to say Hanover was a guard-driven team last season.
Senior Kyle Krout was the league's second-leading scorer, and his backcourt mate Will McQueen proved to be an able sidekick as the Nighthawks reached the league and District 3 playoffs. But both players graduated, and Hanover will need new players to kick start the offense.
At YAIAA winter media day last month, head coach Nate Myers singled out junior Brooks Keeney as one player who will have to fill the void at guard. Senior small forward Hunter Martz will also be relied on for his shooting ability.
"A year ago people were asking how do we replace (program leading scorer) Dylan Krieger, this year it's how do we replace Kyle Krout and next year it's going to be how do you replace whoever," Myers said. "It's going to take multiple people."
York Catholic thinking big
Basketball teams from all over York and Adams County took on the challenge of newspaper tossing during the GameTimePA.com winter media day. Shane Dunlap, Jason Plotkin GameTimePA
Basketball season typically lasts longer at York Catholic than it does elsewhere. But that wasn’t the case last year, and it's been bugging the Irish throughout their longer-than-usual offseason.
York Catholic went one-and-done last season in the District 3 Class 2A playoffs, with the Irish suffering an 18-point drubbing at the hands of Lancaster Mennonite in the quarterfinals. This year's team returns plenty of talent and experience, along with an added dash of motivation.
“That has definitely motivated us,” junior guard D’Andre Davis said. “Last season we learned a lot. This season we’re going to push forward and hopefully reach that district championship and state championship, and not fall short like last year.”
Davis averaged a shade over 13 points per game in his first year at York Catholic after transferring from William Penn, and he’s just one of the weapons the Irish have returning. Seniors Andrew Forjan, Kyle Derowski and Steven Nigro are back, as is junior Melik Martin.
Those returnees mean the Irish will not lack for size and scoring ability. That offensive surplus has allowed second-year head coach Blaine Claiborne to focus his attention on what he saw as his squad’s deficiencies last season — late-game toughness and a defense that finished in the middle of the YAIAA in points allowed per game.
“I learned a lot,” Claiborne said. “Being my first year, I had thought of what would be effective and what would work. I’ve revamped it, not all the way but just adjusting some things. I knew I needed to be tougher than I was last year.”
It won’t take long for York Catholic to test that new mentality: the Irish will open the season Saturday with a marquee road matchup against District 3 champion Trinity, which also brings back a loaded roster.