The excitement for boys’ basketball is back at York Catholic.
Not that interest in one of the YAIAA’s most tradition-rich programs had totally waned, but over the past several seasons, there wasn’t magic in the old gym on Vander Ave. Until now.
In his second year as head coach, former Fighting Irish standout Blaine Claiborne has brought a contagious energy to his alma mater.
Claiborne is hoping to get York Catholic back to the heights of the program when he played. After a resounding 89-40 home win against Hanover, the Irish are 6-1 overall and in the midst of a six-game win streak.
“I would like for them to remind me of that. I think we have the potential to be that good of a team,” he said. “When I played, the guys I played with were more experienced so that is what we lack. But talent-wise, we are a talented group and we are deep.”
One night earlier, York Catholic got a signature win after going to Berks Catholic and coming home with a 47-39 victory.
“We were close in a couple of games last year, but we didn’t get over the hump. (Thursday) was pretty good for us to be in that type of environment and make it,” Claiborne said.
Irish senior Andrew Forjan, who started as a freshman during the lean years, agreed.
“There were spurts of it last year definitely,” Forjan said. “I honestly think (Thursday) was the greatest thing that could have happened to us. Going up to Berks, they are a decent team, their gym was loud.
“It was the first time we actually all came together and we won together. That was huge for us. That was the happiest we have been.”
Being a leader, Forjan gladly adjusted his game. Known for his long-range shooting ability, he distributes the ball more now.
“Growing up, Steve Nash was my idol. I love getting in the lane and passing. Passing for layups is so much fun for me,” he said. “I still look for my shot, and sometimes looking for my shot gets people open. I know whoever I pass it to, I am confident they can make shots.”
Forjan is a great example of an unselfish, deep team. Four players scored in double figures against the Nighthawks, including D’Andre Davis, who led the way with 22.
But what really caught Claiborne’s attention was 6-foot-6 forward Melik Martin passing up a shot during garbage time so Steven Nigro.
It exemplified something the coach has a saying for.
“I use the phrase, “Pass up the shot you can make for the shot that we can’t miss,” and we do that,” Claiborne said.
The crowd, especially the student section, has come alive. Against Hanover, they cheered loudly all game, even to the point of Claiborne having to remind them not to go overboard early in the first quarter. The atmosphere and intimidation appear to have returned.
“That’s what I have been talking about since the first time I addressed them was getting that feeling back,” Claiborne said.
“We don’t hide that we have talent. We should be thinking about country championship, district championship and state tournament. I think they are starting to believe that.”