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Spring Grove boys' in 2 marquee matchups (column)

We preview that, and other key games this week in the YAIAA

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There are  a number of big YAIAA boys' and girls' basketball games this week.

Here are a few I have my eye on, along with some predictions:

Marquee boys' games

Spring Grove at Northeastern, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.; Dallastown at Spring Grove, Friday at 7:30 p.m.: This will be a key litmus test for the Rockets, and their opponents, for that matter.

First, Spring Grove visits Northeastern to take on a Bobcats team that's had considerable buzz surrounding it since the start of the season. In short, the Bobcats, who stand at 9-0 on the year, appear to be the YAIAA cream of the crop. Will the Rockets have something to say about that on Tuesday?

Look for point guard Eli Brooks to have a huge performance in this one — win, lose or draw. Great players show up for games like this, and he's a great player.

Then it's on to the game with Dallastown, which visits Spring Grove on Friday. The reality is, this game could very well be more important for the Rockets than Tuesday's tilt at Northeastern. Here's why:

For starters, the Wildcats are for real and stand second in the YAIAA Division I standings (Spring Grove, for its part, is third with a 5-2 overall record). Dallastown is an upstart team this year, hungry to fortify its spot, and not an easy group to prepare for. A Wildcats win, and the Division I pecking order — with Northeastern and Dallastown entrenched at the top — would clearly come into focus.

Not to be outdone, Spring Grove is the defending YAIAA champs. One would think the Rockets have little interest in becoming the third wheel here, and must defend their homecourt to simply send the message that this is in fact a three-team race.

Don't expect a letdown in Game 2 out of Spring Grove. James Brooks is too good a coach, his son too good a player.

The picks: Spring Grove splits the week, losing at Northeastern before knocking off the Wildcats in a hotly contested game.

YAIAA/Lancaster-Lebanon Showcases on Saturday: There are two separate showcases involving York/Adams squads squaring off against Lancaster-Lebanon programs.

In York, there will be the War of the Roses at West York Area High School. The following six games will take place that day: Warwick vs. Eastern York (noon); Penn Manor vs. Dallastown (1:30 p.m.); Hempfield vs. Red Lion (3 p.m.); Lancaster Catholic vs. York Catholic (4:30 p.m.); Conestoga Valley vs. Central York (6 p.m.); and Manheim Township vs. West York (7:30 p.m.).

Vote: YAIAA top basketball play of the week

Some highlight games here: Eastern York is one of the top YAIAA Division II teams, while Warwick enters the contest with a 5-2 overall record and 2-0 mark in L-L Section 1, according to Lancaster Catholic vs. York Catholic should also be interesting. While the Irish are one of the top teams in the YAIAA this season and the clear-cut favorite in Division III, Lancaster Catholic sports an 8-1 overall record and a 3-0 mark in L-L Section 3.

The other showcase is the Section 2 Showdown at Manheim Central. The five games featured: Elizabethtown vs. York Suburban (1:30 p.m.); Garden Spot vs. Susquehannock (3 p.m.); Lampeter-Strasburg vs. Kennard-Dale (4:30 p.m.); Ephrata vs. Gettysburg (6 p.m.); and Manheim Central vs. Dover (7:30 p.m.).

Keep an eye on the nigthcap. The Eagles enter the contest with a 7-1 overall record, while Manheim Central sports a 6-0 overall mark and St. Joseph's commit Taylor Funk.

Marquee girls' games

Central York at New Oxford, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.: While it could very well be a two-horse race in YAIAA Division I, these teams are at the forefront of the pack. And this Saturday's showdown marks their first head-to-head meeting of the season.

New Oxford sits at 7-1 overall and 4-0 in divisional play, but is coming off a 58-38 thrashing at the hands of Northern Lebanon. No shame there — Northern Lebanon has a quality program, one that reached the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class AAA tournament last year. Now the Colonials must respond.

As for Central, the Panthers are 8-1 on the year and 3-0 in YAIAA Division I. Central reached the YAIAA title game last year and have heard a lot of preseason talk regarding New Oxford as a team to beat.

Star players Kaelyn Long (New Oxford) and Emma Saxton (Central) take center stage in this one. Look for a good game and atmosphere on the  Colonials' homecourt.

The pick: A good game with high intrigue. I'm going with Central York on the road.

Delone Catholic at York Catholic, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.: Well, this one has lost some of its luster.

While York Catholic will be near or at the top of the YAIAA Division III standings this season, the Irish have fallen short recently against larger YAIAA programs such as Division II Dover (72-62 on Dec. 21) and Susquehannock (52-47 on Dec. 28).

Meanwhile, Delone Catholic has the size to give the Irish issues, but their chances took a major hit Dec. 20 when Jill Novak, a skilled player who stands at 6-feet tall, tore her right ACL. It's the second ACL tear Novak has suffered in as many years, as last season she tore the ACL in her left knee.

Her loss levels the playing field, and could put the Irish back in the divisional driver's seat.

The pick: I liked Delone Catholic winning YAIAA Division III entering the year. Novak's injury, however, changes things. I believe York Catholic wins this game.

Eastern York at West York, Friday at 7:30: YAIAA Division II girls is no pushover this year, with a number of solid teams in contention in a wide-open race.

At Eastern York, the Golden Knights' success has been impossible to ignore: an 8-0 overall record, 4-0 mark in YAIAA Division II play and wins over defending division champion Susquehannock and York Suburban, a club many thought would contend this year.

As for West York, they've had the look of a good team as well. Even with their 7-2 record aside (and 2-2 mark in division) the Bulldogs continued to open eyes last week with a 52-24 win over Greencastle-Antrim. A strong defensive performance highlighted that effort, with West York holding Holy Cross commit Jenay Faulkner to just five points on the evening.

The pick: It's official — Eastern York's for real. They win a tight one here against the Bulldogs.