Two rivals square off in early-season test (Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com)
Neither Eastern York nor Northeastern was tested Friday night in the opening round of the Bobcats boys' basketball tip-off tournament.
That should change Saturday at 7:30 p.m., when the two teams take the court in the title game.
Friday night saw Eastern beat Delone Catholic, 79-54, while Northeastern knocked off Northern York, 68-43. There was never a doubt in either contest.
Eastern York raced to a startling beginning, taking a 22-0 lead in the first quarter against the overmatched Squires.
Northeastern, meanwhile, trailed 8-4 early before turning on the jets. A 20-6 second quarter scoring run was all the Bobcats needed, and highlight-variety plays were on display in the second half.
Now, the title game will feature two teams pegged to finish at or near the top of their respective YAIAA divisional standings.
The teams are also quite familiar with each other, as they both competed in Division II before realignment pushed the Bobcats to Division I this season. Northeastern won both times they squared off last year: a competitive contest on the Bobcats' home floor, and a two-point overtime game that fell in Northeastern's favor later in the season.
"It should be a madhouse here on the second night of the season," Eastern York head coach Jon Reichard said. "That's what we're looking for, is to play a good opponent. Get to a championship. ... I think the kids are itching for a little Northeastern just to have some fun."
"They're a good team," said Northeastern guard Antonio Rizzuto, hardly containing his excitement. "We'll have to give it our all. ... We've got to play."
While Friday's games turned out as expected, even Eastern York big man Dominic Particelli said he was surprised when he looked at the scoreboard and saw his team ahead 22-0 in the first quarter.
"I figured we could definitely score 22 points that early," he said. "For them to have zero was kind of a shock."
Eastern York senior forward Jared Achterberg was a machine throughout (20 points and a handful on the backboards), Evan Springer shot the ball well from deep (15 points) and sophomore Seth Bernstein scored seven points and also rebounded the ball well from his guard position.
"We played 11 kids," Reichard pointed out. "Everybody scored but two."
As for Northeastern, a 20-point second quarter was highlighted by Mulbah's high-hopping fastbreak dunk that rocked the rim and riled up the crowd.
The second half was much of the same, with Mulbah dribbling around the defense multiple times and hitting step-back jumpers while Rizzuto and company looked for near alley-oops attempts that failed to fall.
Regardless, Rizzuto led the way with 23 points, Mulbah scored 19 and Brandon Coleman finished with 10.
"We have a couple kids that are very athletic," Northeastern head coach Jon Eyster said. "We're going to be outsized. ... But we play hard. There weren't too many loose balls that we didn't fight for."
Saturday's contrast of styles should be of interest alone: Northeastern's athletic, up-tempo style against Eastern's size.
"I think this is a really intriguing matchup," Eyster said. "Obviously you recognize Achterberg out there. He just got bigger and better. He's more confident. ... I think they may do some things differently (than Northern York) as far of how they play defense. ... I'm anticipating we'll see a little more zone."
Said Particelli: "I think they're a very good team. They're going to be a good challenge. I think we're ready to take them on."