One by one, West York players walked behind their bench to each grab a green water bottle.
The final horn already had sounded for their 70-45 win against YAIAA Division II boys' basketball rival Dover, which marked the 300th career victory for coach Bill Ackerman. They waited for him near center court for a team picture, still with those bottles in hand. Ackerman didn't admonish them as they posed, and his players casually retreated back to their visitors' locker room at Dover Area High School.
Ackerman didn't follow until a short while later.
Once he did, he opened the door to an onslaught of squirts from those bottles. Ackerman joked his players might pay for it in a few days during practice as he exited the locker room. His black shirt was covered with pellets of water.
"If that kind of milestone had to be celebrated with a team, I think I would pick this team right now," Ackerman said. "They're a heck of a group of kids."
What makes this team special to Ackerman is what he's endured with them. He coached them last season, through January and February after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. They welcomed him back a month after his procedure to treat it with a goal of erasing the memory of a 10-12 record.
Two full weeks into a new season, a fresh start, West York is 6-0.
While this victory marked a record for their coach, the Bulldogs (4-0 in Division II) were happier they could leave Dover (3-3, 2-2) just with a win.
"We didn't really care about the 300 because he doesn't really care," senior guard Kevin Rice said. "He didn't even know how people found out."
Until midway through the second quarter, no celebration was a sure thing. The rivals, separated by just a few miles, traded baskets and leads. Rice, who finished with a team-best 24 points, would cut off a screen to score wide open from under the basket. Dover junior guard Ryan Beck, who scored a game-high 27 points, would sometimes answer by shaking a defender on the perimeter. When he didn't get off a shot, he reached the free-throw line.
Beck finished 14-of-17 from the line and gave the Eagles their last lead at 23-21 with 4:08 left in the second quarter. West York closed the half on an 11-2 run, including two baskets from 6-foot-2 sophomore Darian McCauley while he was fouled. McCauley missed his free throw on both conversions, but his first fell into the hands of Rice. By keeping the play alive, Rice wound up giving a 25-23 lead back to West York.
It led the rest of the way.
Their advantage quickly grew to open the third quarter, as defensive rebounds turned into long up-court passes in transition. They created two scoring opportunities in the first 47 seconds, as West York's advantage became double digits.
"We talk before the games, cut here, cut there," 6-3 senior center Parker Weekly said. "It's just simple stuff."
Weekly dished out a team-best seven assists.
"Our scouting report on him says 'very good passer for a big man, especially when he steps into the high post on the perimeter,'" Dover coach Brian Schmoyer said. "He does a great job as a big man of making passes and pinpointing cutters."
The two sides split the rebounding, 40-40, but McCauley grabbed 14 for West York. Rice wound up with seven rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals.
The group effort could only make Ackerman proud.
"The focus isn't about me or the milestone," he said. "If you stay around long enough, I would hope that you're going to get it."
Ackerman is in his 16th season as West York's coach. After the game, and before his shower, Ackerman was given the game ball by Dover athletic director Rich Leathery.
"It says Dover on it. I don't know what I'm going to do with that," Ackerman said. "It's neat."
WEST YORK (70)
Bailey 2 2-3 6, Noah Cable 4 2-3 13, Kevin Rice 10 3-4 24, McCauley 4 1-5 9, Weekly 0 2-4 2, Einsig 1 1-2 4, Neiderer 0 0-2 0, Frey 0 1-2 1, Torres 0 0-0 0, Traettino 3 0-0 7, Lalic 2 0-0 4.
Totals -- 23 12-25 70.
Ryan Beck 6 15-17 27, Brenneman 0 0-1 0, M. Snyder 1 1-2 3, Najah Fink 5 2-6 12, Allen 0 0-4 0. Howard 1 0-0 2, Peters 0 1-2 1, C. Snyder 0 0-0 0, O'Neal 0 0-0 0, Trimmer 0 0-0 0.
Totals -- 13 19-30 45.
West York 10 22 19 19 -- 70
Dover 11 14 11 9 -- 45
3-point goals -- WY 4 (Cable, Rice, Einsig, Traettino), D 1 (Beck).
JV score -- West York, 49-25.