YAIAA Division I goes 6 deep in 2016-17
Watch the top plays captured by GameTimePA reporters in games featuring YAIAA teams from Dec. 9-16. Jim Seip, GameTimePA.com
The YAIAA Division I boys' basketball race is an absolutely loaded one this season.
There are five-to-six legitimate teams in the division: Northeastern, Spring Grove, Dallastown, Central York, New Oxford and William Penn can all play. Three will make the YAIAA tournament in February, and all could make their respective District 3 tournaments as well.
All of the preseason speculation about the Bobcats appears to have been on the money. For starters, they have the top backcourt combination in the league — Fred Mulbah and Antonio Rizzuto are a dangerous one-two punch that should challenge anyone in District 3 Class 5A.
Northeastern is also athletic and fun to watch. What's not to like there? This team is clearly at the top of the pecking order, yet after that it's anyone's game.
We all know about Spring Grove and point guard Eli Brooks. The Rockets are the defending YAIAA champions and Brooks is the type of transcendent player that can lead his team to glory once again.
Yet the real eye-opening group of the bunch early on could very well be Dallastown. In preseason there was talk of the Wildcats making moves as a sleeper squad in the division. Well, that prediction appears to be on target five games into the year.
The Wildcats got the year off to a 2-0 start before an impressive 59-53 win at Central York last week. That's a victory that should open eyes around the league.
Then on Friday, Dallastown pushed Northeastern on the Bobcats' home court, eventually falling 70-58. While much of the preseason talk was about Northeastern and Spring Grove, don't overlook the Wildcats making a push in the standings.
Dallastown matches up well with both of those squads, simply because the Wildcats can hit the opposition with some backcourt firepower of their own: The guard combo of Donovan Catchings (senior) and Brandon McGlynn (junior). The pair have been starting together for three years and have strong chemistry on the playing court.
My prediction: Dallastown springs a win or two over Northeastern and Spring Grove when those teams visit on Wildcats' homecourt (Jan. 18 and 31, in case you're wondering) in what figures to be very intriguing matchups.
As for Central York, the Panthers lost some key players to graduation — one should never overlook or diminish the departure of Jared Wagner, a senior leader last season who simply refused to lose. Those intangibles will be missed any way you slice it.
Still, with that being said, the Panthers are well coached under Kevin Schieler and are a good defensive team. They'll be sure to throw a monkey wrench in the divisional race, playing hard-fought games on a nightly basis and springing some victories along the way.
And while some might say New Oxford's 75-73 win over William Penn is bad news for the Bearcats, I'm going the other way on that argument: It was a great win for a Colonials program that is no longer a doormat — far from it, in fact.
They're moving in the right direction under head coach Sean Bair — New Oxford is now 3-1 on the year, after winning five games two years ago and nine total last season.
And as far as William Penn is concerned, the Bearcats responded after that loss to New Oxford by knocking off Spring Grove, 72-64, at Spring Grove.
Earlier this season, William Penn hung tough with talented Reading High School before falling 73-66. In other words, don't stick a fork in the Bearcats. First-year head coach Clovis Gallon has picked up where Troy Sowers left off, and it's a reminder they should never be counted out of the equation.
These teams will likely beat up on each other all season long. As always, homecourt advantage will play a pivotal role determining who's better, and who's best.
It should be a fun ride to the finish.