Watch GameTimePA's YAIAA power rankings with the top-five boys' basketball teams from Jan. 28, 2017. Jim Seip, GameTimePA.com
To anyone who thought they had the YAIAA boys' basketball power structure figured out before the last eight days, think again.
The popular opinion was that the most talented roster resided in Manchester. And that meant Northeastern has always been the team to beat this season.
As the regular season winds down, however, one player has continued to lift his team and the players around him.
Perhaps, the best team in the YAIAA is the same team that won the league tournament last season.
We will soon find out if the new No. 1 team is here to stay.
5. Central York (13-7)
An honorable mention earlier this season, the Panthers deserve top-five treatment after the way they've played through 20 games.
Conestoga Valley rallied from a six-point fourth quarter deficit to take the lead, but Central's Courtney Batts completed a 3-point play with 18.9 second to play in regulation to force OT. Jim Seip, GameTimePA.com
Consider, the Panthers lost their top three scorers and top three rebounders from a year ago, and they are still a third-place team in Division I and — if they hold their No. 10 district ranking — should be headed back to the District 3 tournament. So much for rebuilding, the Panthers have survived with no stars but a balanced lineup that has no issue knocking off giants. When they need to hit pressure-packed free throws in the final seconds, they do. The Panthers handed Northeastern its first loss, and they whipped Mid-Penn front-runner Carlisle on the road.
Central's two regular-season losses to Dallastown are the only reason the Panthers aren't higher on this list.
4. Dallastown (13-6)
The Wildcats are one of those odd cases: They're good, but at the same time it seems they could even be better than their six-loss record. They are balanced. They make the extra pass to find the open man on offense. And they can be high-flying rim protectors.
They showed they can hang with anyone in Class 6A, losing to top-ranked Governor Mifflin by one point earlier this month.
But then they had a game like Tuesday night at 5A New Oxford, where the Wildcats blew an eight-point lead in the final three-plus minutes.
One more defensive stop, one more open jumper in the final minutes and Dallastown would have walked out a winner. The Wildcats will be a dangerous team in the postseason, since they have all the pieces in place to win. Here's the tough question, though: Are their best games still ahead of them?
3. York Catholic (18-1)
A knock against the Irish is its small-school schedule in YAIAA Division III. But when they step on the floor with a talented opponent, the Irish win. The lone exception was a season-opening loss at Trinity. Since then, 18 straight wins.
Watch highlights from York Catholic boys' basketball, 70-60, victory against Lancaster Catholic Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017. Jim Seip, GameTimePA.com
The Irish should be a force in the District 3 Class 3A bracket, but don't sleep on York Catholic making noise in the league tournament. The Irish should be able to hang with even the best teams in Division I.
2. Northeastern (18-2)
The Bobcats slip from their No. 1 ranking, which they've held all year.
The Friday night loss to Spring Grove could be an aberration, a tough game on the road where foul trouble to Fred Mulbah played a factor. But consider two opponents the Bobcats defeated earlier this year, by greater than 15-point margins (Central York, Spring Grove), have turned around and beaten Northeastern during an eight-day stretch. Bottom line: Northeastern is not invincible.
But it's better to show some vulnerability now and fix any weaknesses before single-elimination tournaments tip off.
1. Spring Grove (14-4)
The Rockets haven't lost since a road game at Carlisle on Jan. 16. They haven't lost to a divisional opponent since Jan. 3 at Northeastern. They haven't lost at home since Dec. 16 against William Penn.
Spring Grove has the best player in the league in Eli Brooks, and he's been playing better than any YAIAA player in recent memory. Since the new year he's scored 358 points in 11 games, averaging 32.5 points per game. And consider, absolutely every team knows his name and has game-planned around slowing him down for the last two years. Still, his lowest point total in 2017 is 22 points in a win against Waynesboro.
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
But it's not just Brooks, and that's why the Rockets earned the No. 1 spot. Spring Grove's supporting cast has improved as the season has progressed. Now the Rockets are a tough out — stop Brooks and stop him from setting up his teammates.
New Oxford (10-9), Dover (13-6), Eastern York (14-5).