Best in the YAIAA face off Friday
Spring Grove's Eli Brooks is having another standout season in his senior year. Hear what his teammates and an opponent have to say about playing alongside and against the University of Michigan recruit. Jim Seip, GameTimePA.com
Forget about the District 3 tournament and all of those potential late-February showdowns — at least for this weekend.
Don't lose sight of Friday night's schedule in the YAIAA, because it could offer some of the best action in the league so far this season. Friday's games could go a long way in helping to decide division titles and seeding for the upcoming league tournament.
Here's a look at the can't-miss matchups:
Northeastern at Spring Grove
Central York proved that Northeastern (18-1, 10-1) is not invincible. The Bobcats were the final unbeaten boys' team in the district, and they appeared to be running away with the YAIAA Division I title. Now, after just one loss, they have a second-place team in position to contend for a division title. But the Rockets need a win in this game to make that possible.
The Rockets (13-4, 9-2), even with 2,000-point scorer Eli Brooks, had trouble keeping up with the Bobcats the first time around.
But that was in Northeastern's cozy confines.
The key for Spring Grove will be slowing down Northeastern's offensive outbursts when the Bobcats travel to Spring Grove's bigger gym, where the Rockets have already erased leads against some of the YAIAA's best big schools.
The supporting cast for the Rockets could also help determine if this game stays competitive. Can the Rockets keep all of the Bobcats' weapons — like Antonio Rizzuto, Brandon Coleman and Fred Mulbah — in check? Can they keep Northeastern under 70 points? And can they ease the scoring burden off Brooks? Brooks has proven he can go for 40 points if needed, but that won't be enough if Northeastern shuts down Spring Grove's Drew Gordon, Austin Panter and Jonny Sager.
Delone Catholic at York Catholic
The Irish (17-1, 11-0) could be the second-best team in the YAIAA this season, something that might go overlooked because of its presence in Division III. Unable to face off against the league's biggest schools on a regular basis, York Catholic's only loss came in its opener on the road at Trinity.
Still, Delone Catholic (10-8, 9-2) offers its own set of challenges. The Squires kept the first meeting on Jan. 3 close, falling 79-73 by using a 23-13 run in the third quarter to take the lead. York Catholic pulled out the win more than three weeks ago by going on its own run, finishing the game with a 23-13 spurt.
The hero in the first matchup was guard D'Andre Davis, who scored a game-high 32 points. He shot 10-of-12 from the line, attempting just two fewer free throws than the entire Delone Catholic team.
New Oxford at Central York
The first matchup didn't live up to the hype. The showdown between the top-two, big-school teams in the YAIAA was over by halftime.
Central (16-2, 8-1) has that kind of scoring potential, especially when New Oxford (15-3, 8-2) sticks to its game plan of running and gunning — even if the shots its gunning for are contested and not of the high-percentage variety. That was the issue in the teams' first matchup, and something coach Jim Kunkle wanted fixed. A one-shot-and-done offensive possession is the same as a turnover in his book. A key for New Oxford will be to work as a team for the patient, open shot.
One more thing to watch: Central York is aggressive, which is an advantage for the Panthers almost every night they step on the floor. Few teams have been able to use that aggressiveness against the Panthers and put Central in foul trouble. A senior-laden and experienced team like New Oxford might be able to pull it off.
York Catholic at Delone Catholic
This one looked like a victory for the Squirettes the first time around. Even though Delone was still reeling following the loss of post player Jill Novak (torn ACL), Delone (14-4, 8-1 Division) built a big third-quarter lead before York Catholic (12-4, 9-0) pulled off the comeback victory.
The Irish didn't own a lead until 1:51 left in the action.
Expect the game to once again come down to matchup issues. Delone needs to maximize its height advantage, while York Catholic needs to take advantage of its guard play — and specifically the play-making of Kate Bauhof.