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York Catholic determined to contend in YAIAA tournament

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It's easy to overlook York Catholic when debating the best boys' basketball team in York County.

After all, the Irish don't play the league's biggest schools in Division I. They haven't played many memorable close games this season, and they've rarely been challenged in their own division.

But York Catholic (20-1, 14-0 YAIAA Division III) hasn't lost since the season opener, and the Irish have beaten the top two teams — Lancaster Catholic and Berks Catholic — in District 3 Class 4A. Lancaster Catholic has beaten both Spring Grove and Central York, two of the top three teams in YAIAA Division I.

With the YAIAA tournament approaching, the Irish are looking forward to playing the best the league has to offer. And the Irish think they can win the whole thing.

"We definitely can match up with (Division I teams)," York Catholic head coach Blaine Claiborne said. "And we've played competition that is ranked high and has beaten Division I teams in York County. So we feel confident about what we can do."

Claiborne has plenty of reasons to be confident. He's got four seniors in his starting lineup. Melik Martin (16.6 points per game), a 6-foot-5 forward who can score from anywhere on the court, run the floor and block shots. Guard Andrew Forjan is a steady player who can handle the ball and shoot 3-pointers, and junior guard D'Andre Davis (15.4 points per game) can get to the basket at will and set up his teammates.

Claiborne thinks his squad has as much talent as any team in the league.

"Besides Eli (Brooks), Melik is just as good as anybody in any division if not better," Claiborne said. "If he's not the second-best player in the league, tell me who is. D'Andre is right there with anybody else, Andrew is just as good as any point guard in the league.

"I don't care what other people think, I care about us. It doesn't matter Division I or Division III, at the end of the day we've got to get on the court and play. If we're good enough, we'll win. If we're not, we won't."

The Irish may be as hot as any team in the league, but that doesn't mean they don't have room for improvement. With most of their games coming against small-school teams in Division III, the Irish have become complacent at times.

At home against Littlestown on Friday, York Catholic took a 16-point lead into halftime despite missing a number of free throws and rebounds. They came out more focused in the third quarter and eventually pulled away to win, 84-40.

"That's really been a fight all year, to do the things that are going to make us better regardless of what the score says," Claiborne said. "That's hard. Human nature is to look up (at the scoreboard) and do some stuff that you wouldn't do when games are tight."

Still, the Irish have gotten experience against top teams in District 3 and have come out on the winning end. Now in the second year under Claiborne and with most of their lineup set to graduate, the Irish are determined to take advantage of the opportunities in front of them.

"I don't really like being under the radar, but in counties and districts and hopefully states, we'll prove that we are a good program," Martin said. "I think we'll have a good run."