Teams won memorable semifinal games, set to meet for championship. (Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com)
It wasn’t enough that Eli Brooks was the best player in the YAIAA on Wednesday night, but he also had to be near-perfect if Spring Grove had any chance to win a YAIAA boys’ basketball tournament semifinal against Central York.
For stretches, he did just that. But Central York had too many weapons, holding off Spring Grove, 53-45, at Red Lion High School to advance to the program’s fourth consecutive league championship game.
In a rematch of the league championship game from a year ago, Central had six players score six or more points.
Brooks finished with a game-high 30 points, buoyed by an impressive first quarter when he hit 6-of-9 shots for 15 points. He couldn’t keep that output going, however, especially against Central’s switching man defense.
Central kept with its typical man defense, but coach Kevin Schieler decided to double Brooks by having the next closest man collapse on him.
"We knew going into the second quarter what to do to contain him the rest of the way," Central senior Courtney Batts said.
Central York will play Northeastern for the YAIAA championship. The game is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. Friday at York College.
Neither team scored in the second quarter until Cade Pribula knocked down a bucket with 5:09 to play before the half. Then the Panthers, led by Batts' 14 points, took control of the game with a 7-0 run toward the end of the second quarter.
Spring Grove also missed one of its best offensive options in Drew Gordon, who missed the game with pneumonia.
"It's like having your left arm taken away from you," Spring Grove coach James Brooks said of his absence.
Not only did Spring Grove miss Gordon's offense, but he also is one of the players responsible for bringing the ball up the court. That was another responsibility that fell on Brooks.
"It just uses more energy," Brooks said.
Austin Panter was the second-leading scorer for Spring Grove with six points.
Even when Brooks whipped impossible passes to his teammates in the low post, Spring Grove still had to shoot layups over Central defenders, which didn’t happen with enough regularity. Central stayed home, and deflected or contested enough shots to stay in front.
Schieler stood at the end of the baseline after the final horn sounded taking it in the whole scene.
“That was just some nerves that let out,” Shieler said. “First period (in school), one of my players asked me if I was I nervous, and my answer was, ‘Heck yes.’ I think I got more nervous when I found out Drew wasn’t playing, because I was worried about our guys having a letdown.”
But it didn't happen in the semifinal.