Memorable meeting of top central Pa. hoops stars
Teammates for the Jersey Shore Warriors, Spring Grove's Eli Brooks and Manheim Central's Taylor Funk met in a District 3 boys' basketball quarterfinal Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. Jim Seip, GameTimePA.com
Even in the District 3 playoffs, it's odd to see two athletes the caliber of Spring Grove's Eli Brooks and Manheim Central's Taylor Funk facing off on the court.
Brooks is headed to the University of Michigan, and Funk is headed to St. Joseph's next season. Both will be off to bigger and better things.
So when the two players met Thursday night in a Class 5A quarterfinal at Spring Grove High School, expectations were high something special would happen.
It did. Spring Grove overcame a seven-point, fourth-quarter deficit to win, 65-63, in one of the more entertaining games of the tournament.
Oddly enough, for years the two spent huge chunks of time with each other, playing on the same AAU team — the Jersey Shore Warriors. In fact, the two played in front of a cast of Division I coaches, including Fran Dunphy (Temple), Phil Martelli (St. Joe's) and Rick Pitino (Louisville), during a showcase in Philadelphia in July.
On the same team since about the age of 12, their families would travel to the same tournament and watch games together. Brooks typically passed the ball or set up a play for Funk, who despite being 6-foot-9 is a talented shooter best suited to play on the perimeter.
So it should be no surprise that after pregame instructions, while other opponents just shook hands Brooks and Funk slapped each other on the shoulder, too.
But once the game started, Brooks and Funk kept running into each other. The two collided in the paint in the first half, with Brooks cutting his ear when Funk's knee banged against the left side of Brooks' head. Then, after Spring Grove ran a number of defenders at Funk, Brooks ended up guarding Funk.
It was an odd sight. Brooks, who will likely play point guard in college, chasing the much taller Funk. And Funk, despite the fact he's a perimeter player, spying the size advantage and taking Brooks down to the low post to shoot over his AAU teammate.
"I know his game, but he definitely got a lot better," Funk said of Brooks.
Brooks (25 points) and Funk (32) combined to score 57 points.
Both did their biggest damage in the fourth quarter, with Brooks sparking a comeback by sinking 10-of-10 free throws (and scoring 12 points) in the final quarter.
Meanwhile, Funk dropped 15 of his game-high 32 points in the last eight minutes to try to hold off the Rockets. But Manheim managed just 17 points in the quarter, while Brooks' teammates made the biggest difference. Austin Panter scored eight of his 20 in the final quarter as Brooks' supporting cast outscored Funk's supporting cast 13-2 in the pivotal fourth quarter.
It was no doubt an odd meeting for the two AAU teammates, but a memorable one as well.
YAIAA career scoring leaders
2,504 - Andrew Nicholas, Eastern York, 2011
2,388 - Jacob Iati, York Catholic, 2008
2,282 - Eli Brooks*, Spring Grove, 2017
2,236 - Adam Miller, Kennard-Dale, 1993
2,216 - Jon Iati, York Catholic, 2003
2,175 - Brian Pearl, York Catholic, 1991
1,929 - Andy Winebrenner, Fairfield, 2002
1,921 - Levi Winters, Northeastern, 2004
1,863 - Austin Tillotson, Eastern York, 2011
1,854 - Four McGlynn, Dallastown, 2011
* - active, points through Feb. 23, 2017
Spring Grove's Eli Brooks has been on the radar of Division I college programs and the recruiting season heats up in July with several AAU showcase tournaments. Jim Seip, GameTimePA.com