Eastern York Sinks Octorara With Three-Point Barrage As Golden Knights Lock Up State Tournament Bid In Emotional District 3-4A Fifth-Place Triumph
Written by: Andy Herr on Wednesday, February 26th, 2020
When most people think of the postseason and the ever-popular idea of brackets, odds are that those same individuals envision the “survive and advance” model of thinking that always takes the country by storm in the month of March each and every year like clockwork. However, not all brackets are necessarily created equal.
In the world of District 3 alone, it’s actually quite common –depending on your classification of choice of course— to see several handfuls of teams actually lose their last game of the district playoffs while still having a bid to the state tournament still securely wedged in their back pocket.
Well, not everyone though.
For Eastern York and Octorara, Wednesday night in Wrightsville was the very epitome of what makes the idea of a bracket so tantalizing for hoops-crazed fans everywhere. You see, thanks to their early work within the district playoffs while competing with the 4A level of play, both the Golden Knights and Braves found themselves in the quintessential do-or-die scenario when pitted against one another with the fifth and final seed out of District 3 up for grabs with the eventual loser being cruelly forced to hand in their uniforms in the not-too-distant future.
For Octorara, an 9-1 overall record in their previous ten games brought them to the western shores of the Susquehanna for a matchup with an especially dangerous Eastern York squad that has already proven its weight against Lancaster-Lebanon League competition this year considering that the Knights had already taken on the likes of the Donegal, Solanco, and Columbia to name just a few, with the Knights coming out victorious in of each and every one of those contests.
So, with everything in the world to possibly play for, emotions were sure to make Eastern York’s gym feel like that of a hornet’s nest on Wednesday night when these two worthy foes battled it out for the last remaining ticket to the 4A dance which will get underway in earnest next Friday night.
In short, it proved to be all that and then some.
In terms of getting off to a hot start and settling into a groove right out of the chute, Octorara couldn’t have possibly drawn up a much better start to the game considering that 5’11 senior point guard, Keith Lambert, proceeded to fire in a triple on the Braves’ first trip down the floor to get the Braves started off on the right foot.
But that is where things would do a drastic about-face.
After Lambert’s early bomb, the Braves went ice-cold, failing to put the ball in the ocean for essentially the next six minutes of game action. And as good teams often do, especially those still playing this late in the season, Eastern York then proceeded to make Octorara pay dearly for their shortcomings. In fact, the Knights then rattled off an impromptu 10-0 flurry that was capped off by a pair of Trevor Seitz free throws, handing Eastern York the 10-3 cushion with Octorara clearly disjointed at that point in time.
However, even with the Braves struggling mightily for much of the first period while still trying to find their way, once they did get their mojo back, Octorara proved as to why they were such a wildly-underseeded squad heading into districts as a pair of back-to-back buckets in transition courtesy of 6’0 junior guard, Phillip Brandon, almost immediately wiped away Octorara’s hard-luck as the visitors from Chester County had rallied to within a deuce at 10-8 with 1:25 left in the first. And with Brandon clearly cooking on the offensive end of the floor, it probably should have come as no surprise whatsoever to then see him sink a trifecta to give the Braves the lead at 11-10 shortly thereafter.
That said, Octorara’s dance with the lead would prove to be relatively short-lived seeing as how Eastern went on to earn the 12-11 advantage at the conclusion of the game’s incredibly entertaining opening eight minutes.
At the onset of the second frame, Octorara only continued to keep the pedal down as a fearless take to the tin by 5’9 senior guard, Brian James, gave the lead right back to the Braves at 13-12 on the visitors’ second trip down the floor offensively in the period.
However, that would prove to be the last time that Octorara would lead for the remainder of the evening.
Sensing that Octorara may have found something working on the offensive end, Eastern York then went right back to their bread and butter, the penetrate and pitch game, with the Knights ultimately being rewarded handsomely for doing making such a choice.
Truth be told, the Knights’ rally to overtake the lead happened within the blink the eye given the fact that a Trevor Seitz triple when coupled with yet another long-range bomb thanks to 6’3 freshman guard, Austin Bausman, quickly gave Eastern the 18-13 lead right back just 1:45 into the second quarter. From there, Seitz continued to possess the hot hand by pouring in another trifecta en route to his magnificent game-high total of 27 points in all, giving Eastern York the seven-point lead at that point later in the second quarter at 23-16.
Fortunately for Octorara, the torrid shooting from beyond the arc must have been contagious seeing as how Phillip Brandon –Octorara’s high-scorer on the night with a 17-point outburst—canned a triple to cut the Braves’ deficit back down to a half dozen at 25-19 shortly thereafter, only to bear witness to yet another Seitz 3-ball which had pumped the Knights’ lead back up to nine at 32-23 with under 30 seconds left to play in the first half. And while the Braves would end up cutting into Eastern’s lead somewhat thanks to a timely Keith Lambert take to the rack on Octorara’s very next trip down the floor offensively, the Golden Knights had appeared to be exactly that, golden, throughout much of the opening 16 minutes while citing their 32-25 lead at the halftime break.
Granted, while Octorara had largely been able to find their offensive rhythm by way of their own bread and butter of getting out and running at warp-like speed throughout much of the first half, there was still one weapon in their arsenal that had largely been kept under wraps throughout the first two quarters. And truth be told, he’s certainly hard to miss given his 6’7 lanky frame with the ability to jump out of the gym at a moment’s notice.
Yes, while Octorara junior forward Naji Hamilton had relatively been held in check offensively by Eastern York up until that point of the contest, the Braves’ big man proceeded to come out of the intermission with his hair on fire, seemingly taking matters into his very own hands in order to help bring Octorara closer to what they had hoped would be newfound ownership of the lead.
And if he wasn’t getting it done by the way of the foul line –something he seemed to do rather well considering he authored up a 3-4 stretch at the charity stripe to help raise the curtain on the second quarter proceedings—Hamilton clearly had no issues in doing things the much more traditional way seeing as how a pair of gorgeous moves while going operating inside the post helped trim Eastern York’s lead down to the slimmest of margins at 35-34 midway through the third quarter.
Yet even if he wasn’t getting his name into the scorer’s book in more finite and concrete ways such as scoring, Hamilton was seen making just as many critical plays that would never show up on an official stat sheet. Case in point, his tip-out off a missed shot which saved an Octorara possession before ultimately having the Braves’ trip culminate with an enormous 3-ball sprayed by 6’2 sophomore forward, James Taylor, knotting things back up at 37-37 with the Braves’ fans certainly in a celebratory mood given the events which had just transpired.
But if ever a play could help serve a precursor of the events still yet to unfold, the closing moments of Wednesday’s third quarter would be the most fitting of an example.
With the game clearly up for grabs given the fact that Eastern York and Octorara found themselves all square at 37 apiece late in the third quarter, the door was left open for someone to barge right through and ultimately slam it shut behind them. In that regard, enter Eastern York 6’0 senior guard, Trevor Seitz, to stage right.
Yes, on the Knights’ final possession of the third quarter, Seitz proceeded to nail a back-breaking triple in the face of the Braves’ oncoming onslaught, helping usher Eastern into the final period with ownership of the 40-37 lead. That said, if you’re sensing a theme here, no, you’re not mistaken. Out of Seitz’s team-best 27 points on the night, 15 of them just so happened to come beyond the arc. The fact that they seemed to come at the most opportune time as far as the Knights were concerned? Well, that was likely just icing on the cake.
So, with Seitz still proving himself to be white-hot from bonus distance throughout the entirety of the night, the Knights’ senior floor general fittingly picked up right where he had left off by promptly burying yet another trifecta, this time upping the Knights’ lead to a half dozen at 43-37 to start the fourth quarter proceedings.
From there, the three-point baton was then passed to freshman Austin Bausman who rose to the occasion by sinking a pair of critical triples in his own right to make it a 49-41 Eastern York lead with time and opportunity starting to slip away from Octorara.
But truth be told, the Golden Knights as a collective group themselves to be absolutely deadly from beyond the arc on Wednesday night while considering the fact that Eastern splashed in nine triples in total as a team throughout the duration of the evening. With that in mind, 6’3 sophomore forward, Micah Myers, proceeded to get in on the act by sinking a 3-ball of his own to help make it a nine-point Eastern lead at 52-43 with four minutes left to play. Yet even if it wasn’t a 3-ball by the most conventional of measures, Eastern York had no problems whatsoever in terms of inflicting even more damage upon the Braves seeing as a how a long baseball pass against the Octorara press ultimately ended with Trevor Seitz finishing through contact, giving Eastern York the 55-43 lead with the Knights now sensing a trip towards Philadelphia against a District 12 foe in just nine days’ time.
To their credit though, Octorara would continue probing and pushing to find any sort of daylight in Eastern York’s existing lead. In that regard, a pair of late triples nailed by 6’4 senior forward, Matt Keating, helped close the Braves’ deficit down somewhat which puncturing Eastern’s final sizable cushion.
Even still, Eastern’s handiwork from beyond the arc eventually proved to be too steep of a hill to climb for Octorara to try and work themselves from out of over the final few minutes and change as Eastern York went on to formally punch their ticket into the state bracket in a passion-filled 62-51 final decision over Octorara, ending the Braves’ season Wednesday night just inside the York County border.
Yet even with Octorara’s season coming to an untimely end as far as those donning Braves’ gear were most concerned, the future for Octorara on the hardwood appears to bright given the fact that Octorara was able to close the season with such an emphatic run down the final stretch of the regular season while also expecting the return of several key contributors from this year’s squad back into the fold next season with names such as Phillip Brandon, James Taylor, and oh yes, perhaps the best player entering the 2020-21 season in the entire L-L League, Naji Hamilton, also set to wear the Blue and Red of Octorara yet again next season for a campaign that those in Atglen hope will culminate in the school’s first-ever trip to the L-L League playoffs for starters.
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