While there is no denying that the end of this year’s high school basketball season is now rapidly approaching, there are many teams around the Lancaster-Lebanon League that are currently eyeing up their chances of fulfilling a preseason goal of perhaps locking down a much-desired playoff berth. Yet even despite the fact that the final two weeks of the year will largely center around critical interleague matchups that will understandably be on the forefront of everyone’s minds, there is always more than enough time to make room and sneak a tasty nonleague rivalry into the fray as well. And wouldn’t you know it, that just so happened to be the case on Monday night when Eastern York came across the Susquehanna River to meet up with their next-door neighbors high atop “The Hill” in Columbia in front of what figured to be a very lively and raucous atmosphere.
As far as the Crimson Tide were concerned, Monday night’s contest against the Golden Knights would not only provide them with a chance to extend their current three-game winning streak, but it would also offer up the opportunity for Columbia to slay a giant should they be able to knock off a 16-3 Eastern York behemoth —– A squad that entered the week as the #2 seed in the District 3-4A playoff chase. And should they be able to do once the night was done, the Tide were sure to see a significant uptick in their own District 3 power rating, as Columbia came into Monday night’s battle clinging to the final spot in 3A field by virtue of their current 8th seeded placement.
But on this night, it would prove to be the Golden Knights who would truly shine in the glow of their moniker.
Once Monday night’s much-anticipated finally got underway, Eastern York wasted little time in throwing the game’s first punch. In fact, it would take the Knights all of two minutes to jump out to a sizeable lead on their hosts, as a tough bucket inside from Demonte Martin gave the visitors from Wrightsville the 7-2 cushion.
But as was to be expected, especially when playing inside their house of horrors as viewed by nearly challenger who happens to have the unenviable task of entering their cozy confines, the Crimson Tide proceeded to feed off the energy of the home crowd over the next few minutes as Columbia quickly rallied back. To be more exact, the Crimson Tide soared.
After five straight points authored by 5’0 sophomore guard Michael Poole Jr, the Crimson Tide found themselves back even with Eastern York as Poole’s impromptu flurry knotted things up at 7-7 at the 4:30 mark of the opening quarter. And with Poole’s hot-shooting touch clearly contagious, fellow sophomore Brady Smith was able to follow suit with a triple of his own, as the 6’4 swingman gave Columbia their first lead of the night at 10-7 on the Tide’s ensuing offensive trip.
So, with the first quarter rapidly winding down, quelling Columbia’s sudden storm became paramount over the next few minutes for Eastern York. And with such a veteran cast of characters helping to steer the ship, it probably should have come as no surprise that the Knights would be able to do precisely that.
Ignited by a key drive to the cup by way of 5’11 junior guard Trevor Seitz which had allowed Eastern to stop the bleeding, Demonte Martin was on the scene on again with yet another man’s-sized bucket inside, giving the lead back to Eastern York at 13-12, which is where the score remained as the final 1:50 melted off the first quarter clock.
Yet again however, Eastern York was about to quickly find out that getting a program to fold that is hard-wired on a tough as nails, relentless DNA strand such as that contained by Columbia, is certainly not a chore for the faint of heart. And sure enough, the Crimson Tide wasted little to no time proving that notion correct.
It would take all of one possession as a matter of fact.
After another Michael Poole Jr triple, good for 3 of his team-high 11 points on the evening, the Crimson Tide found themselves back on top once again at 15-13. But that would prove to be the Tide’s last lead of the night.
Staring in the face of a possible Columbia blitzkrieg, Eastern York calmly went out about their business, gradually chiseling away at the Crimson Tide cushion before going in front themselves. In fact, while clearly and understandably sparked by a Demonte Martin two-handed flush, senior point guard Bryce Henise was able to keep the Eastern York snowball rolling downhill with a bucket of his own in transition, effectively giving the Knights the upper hand once again at 20-15 as Columbia was forced to call a timeout with 4:42 left in the first half. But as the second quarter moved along, it only proved to be more of the same from the Golden Knights. Throughout the final four minutes and change of the opening half, Eastern York firmly kept their foot to floorboard, eventually closing the books on the first half with a 13-2 salvo, as Eastern York went into the dressing room with the nearly double-digit advantage at 26-17.
Ironically, for as much as Eastern York effectively dominated the latter stages of the second quarter on Monday evening in Columbia, the third quarter would proceed to offer a much different narrative.
Whether it be a passion-filled halftime message offered by Crimson Tide head coach Kerry Glover, or simply the fact that this young Columbia bunch had suddenly grasped the enormity of the opportunity at hand, rest assured that 6’0 sophomore guard Luis Cruz received the message loud and clear as Cruz proceeded to open the second half up with a bang, scoring the Tide’s first four points of the second half to get the hometown team started off on the right foot. And after a yet another 3-ball, yes, from none other than Michael Poole Jr, the Crimson Tide suddenly found themselves back within six at 30-24 with 5:30 left showing on the third quarter clock.
But for as much momentum as it had appeared that Columbia was drumming up, Eastern York, namely Demonte Martin, had a much different plan.
Just as he had all night long up until that point, Martin continued to be a massive thorn in the Tide’s collective side as a nifty lob thrown in Martin’s direction from the capable hands of Eastern York floor general Trevor Seitz quickly put the Knights back up by 10 at 34-24 shortly thereafter.
Yet again though, Columbia would come roaring right back.
Despite finding themselves staring into the depths of another hole that they had been thrown into by Eastern, Matt McCleary and Columbia responded with an unquestioned determination in the moments that followed as four straight McCleary points immediately cut the Eastern York lead back down to just three at 34-31 with three minutes left in the third frame. From there, the Crimson Tide was able to creep even closer as a Brady Smith deuce from point-blank range made the Columbia deficit exactly that as the Tide had nearly come all the way back, getting within two at 35-33.
That would prove to be all the closer Columbia would get for the rest of the evening.
To be more precise, the Golden Knights would offer a rebuttal in the form of an 9-3 run in the moments that followed, eventually heading into the final quarter with possession of the 44-36 advantage, with a Demonte Martin bucket fittingly capping things off. Speaking of Martin, the Golden Knights’ senior leader would prove to be a workhorse all night, eventually closing the night by bucketing a game-high 20-point effort to aid the Eastern York cause.
But unlike the previous times on Monday night, Columbia would be unable to muster any significant retaliation for the remainder of the evening as Eastern York continued to play with the lead as the game headed down the final furlong.
Not only that, but the Knights were then able to build upon their advantage as the fourth and final quarter moved along, as a Stephen Wisler bucket inside set the Knights’ advantage to a dozen at 52-40 with 5:40 left to play. From there, Eastern York was able to ride off into the sunset in style as a beautiful three-point play of the traditional variety from Trevor Seitz closed things out for good as the Golden Knights made the short, yet triumphant trek westward on Monday evening after taming the upstart and hungry Crimson Tide, 61-44.
NEXT UP: For Columbia, the task at hand really is quite simple. As far as it relates to the Crimson Tide, Monday night should not serve as a nail in the coffin by any stretch of the imagination. And while it may true that the margin for error only gets slimmer and slimmer with each passing night that is left unfulfilled, the Tide must now rise up and regroup just 48 hours later as they prepare to take on yet another goliath, Berks Catholic, up in Reading on Wednesday night before jumping back into the Lancaster-Lebanon League pool with a home game on Friday night against Pequea Valley. And while most teams often signify the final regular season home game as “Senior Night,” the Crimson Tide find themselves in a unique circumstance not only on Friday night, but this year as a whole, considering the fact that not one senior is contained on this Columbia roster. So, should the Crimson Tide be able to find a way to successfully navigate past their final few games of this season and perhaps wind up in both the L-L League and District 3 playoffs just a few short weeks from now, the foundation that is currently being laid this year will undoubtedly have its concrete hardened ten-fold for the future, provided this group is able to jump head-first into the postseason fire this year.