Eastern York holds of York Catholic in the opening game of the YAIAA tournament. Christian Arnold
Battle: It's a word you often hear this time of year. Teams battling to get into the postseason, and players battling through injuries.
On Friday night, at a crowded Red Lion Area High School, the Eastern York and York Catholic boys' basketball teams did just that in their YAIAA tournament quarterfinal.
In a game that Eastern led for all but about three minutes, the Irish never went away.
Then, Eastern standout Jared Achterberg injured his left ankle with 1:25 to play. But as the final seconds of a 59-46 Golden Knights victory ticked away, the junior stood tall on the court, basking in the hard-fought win.
"I played the whole entire game. I just wanted to finish it," said Achterberg, who finished with 18 points and seven rebounds.
It is believed to be the third time this year that Achterberg has twisted an ankle during the game and finished the contest.
"Jared is going to be alright," Eastern head coach Jon Reichard said. "He's a tough kid. He said the kid actually stepped on it and turned it over. It was a high ankle sprain, I don't know if that's better or not."
When Achterberg was hurt with 1:25 to go, the Golden Knights (18-4) led by nine, having seen a lead as large of 16 shrink in a matter of minutes. York Catholic continued to play tough, and Eastern suffered a run of six straight missed foul shots to keep the game interesting in the waning moments.
"They really competed; you have to give York Catholic credit," Reichard said. "We had a chance to make this a 20-point game and we either turned it over or did something we normally don't do. You can't miss those kind of foul shots when you have a chance to put your opponent away."
The win moves the Golden Knights to a Tuesday semifinal matchup with Central York.
"We played Central early and over the summer. They know us and we know them," Reichard said.
Broguen Nicholas led Eastern with 20 points, and Jarad Woods added 16. The Golden Knights scored 15 points in every quarter but the second, when they registered 14.
York Catholic (16-4), which entered the game on a six-game winning streak, couldn't overcome single-digit showings in the first and third quarters.
"We have spirit and we play together and are never going to give up," Irish head coach Blaine Claiborne said. "We really wanted it and felt like we were good enough to win, but Eastern is a tough team. I knew it was going to be a big challenge for us."
The Irish (16-5) were led by Melik Martin's 13 points and nine rebounds.
"This is his first varsity season and he is doing fine," Claiborne said. "He played strong today and for us to win against Class AAA and AAAA, he has to be the unquestioned MVP. Twenty points and close to 20 rebounds, he has to do that."
Andrew Forjan added 11 points for the Irish.
Both teams featured excellent turnout from the student sections and fan bases, something that first-year Irish coach Claiborne said is important.
"My first goal was to make sure I could capture the guys in the locker room, and once we did that the student and alumni will come around," Claiborne said. "We turned the corner, but I'm not satisfied, because we haven't beat the tough teams that we have played. But, it's going in the right direction."
Eastern York 59, York Catholic 46
Eastern York (59)
Jared Achterberg 8 0-0 18, Broguen Nicholas 5 9-10 20, Jarad Woods 5 5-6 16, Kalke 0 0-0 0, Springer 1 0-1 3, Particelli 0 0-0 0, Bernstein 1 0-4 2, Shimmel 0 0-0 0. Totals — 20 14-21 59.
York Catholic (46)
Derowski 1 3-4 5, Andrew Forjan 3 3-4 11, Smith 0 0-0 0, Echevarria 0 0-0 0, Davis 3 1-2 8, Bauhof 1 0-0 2, Nigro 2 1-4 7, Melik Martin 5 3-4 13. Totals — 15 11-18 46.
Eastern York_ 15_ 14_ 15_15_ — _ 59
York Catholic_ 9_ 15_ 8_ 14_ — _ 46
3-point goals — EY 5 (Achterberg 2, Nicholas, Woods, Springer); YC 5 (Nigro 2, Forjan 2, Davis).