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If last winter served up a dream regular season for the Eastern York boys' basketball team, this campaign has been more of an exercise in practicality.

The Golden Knights had to survive the first few weeks of the season without their all-state point guard and all-around lynchpin, Austin Tillotson. Then they had to endure an amped-up scheduled that included games against some of the state's top teams.

At a couple points along the way, they took their lumps.

So while this Eastern team - which opens up its postseason against Dover on Saturday in a YAIAA tournament quarterfinal - might not have the same sparkling record as last year's group, it may be better prepared.

"When it happened," Eastern coach Larry Fisher said, referring to Tillotson's wrist injury, "you kind of sold yourself on the idea that that was the way it was going to go. And thank goodness it has."

Last season, there were no such worries. The Golden Knights (18-3) didn't lose until the state semifinals, earning YAIAA and District 3 championships along the way.

This winter offered similar expectations. But before the season started, Tillotson fractured his wrist in practice. He missed the first six games of the season.

Eastern didn't always look convincing during that stretch, but it pushed through. Players such as sophomore Dalton Reichard and senior Ryky Smith were forced into bigger roles.


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"The guys that needed the experience got the right kind of experience," Fisher said.

And of course there were those three showcase games - Scranton, Archbishop Carroll and Chester, all losses - that Fisher hopes have toughened his team up for the stretch run.

Now Tillotson is back at full strength. And 6-foot-6 senior Andrew Nicholas has continued to pace the offense: He's 95 points away from passing Jacob Iati's YAIAA career scoring record of 2,388 points.

Behind those two, Eastern still breezed to a YAIAA Division III championship and a No. 1 seed in the league tournament alongside William Penn - the team that Eastern beat last year in the league championship.

The Golden Knights and Bearcats have played in the YAIAA title game each of the last two years. William Penn is a strong candidate to get there again this season - the Bearcats (21-1) have 20 straight games heading into tomorrow's first-round matchup with York Suburban.

"We met our goal of winning Division I," William Penn coach Troy Sowers said. "But when you talk about York County, you're not going to talk in a couple months about who won Division I or Division II. You're going to talk about the (YAIAA) champs."

Girls' tournament (All games tonight)

At Dover
Delone Catholic (17-5) vs. Dallastown (16-6)

   Tipoff: 6:30 p.m.
   The skinny: Dallastown has relied largely on defense this season, en route to a second-place finish in Division I. But can it slow down Sierra Moore?
   Squirettes must: Continue their search for balance on offense. We know Moore, the league's leading scorer, can fill the stat sheet. But as the playoffs go on, Delone will need other players to produce big buckets.
   Wildcats must: Force Delone to play their style. Dallastown is allowing 34.9 points per game this season, third best in the YAIAA. If the Wildcats can get Delone into a lower-scoring type of game, their chances to win will no doubt improve.

At Dover
Red Lion (20-0) vs. Biglerville (12-9)

   Tipoff: 8 p.m.
   The skinny: The Canners put together a great turnaround season, but a win here would have to be considered a monumental upset.
   Lions must: Do what they do best: Use their ultra-aggressive defense to disrupt opponents and create easy buckets. Few teams have been able to stand up to Red Lion's press -- the Lions have won by double-digits in all but three games this season. 
   Canners must: Stay composed. Red Lion's press will be unlike anything Biglerville has faced so far. If the Canners panic and start to the turn the ball over, it could get ugly fast.

At Red Lion
Spring Grove (12-10) vs. Eastern York (17-4)

   Tipoff: 6:30 p.m.
   The skinny: These teams will play in a rematch of their game from early December, which Eastern won, 47-40.
   Rockets must: Leave nothing in the tank. Despite winning the Division II title, Spring Grove fell short of a District 3 playoff berth. The league tournament is the end of the line for Spring Grove -- no reason to hold anything back now.
   Golden Knights must: Get the ball inside to forwards Elizabeth Myers and Morgan DeRemer. Both are averaging a bit over 10 points a game, and together they present a tough combo for any opposing frontcourt to handle.

At Red Lion
York Catholic (22-0) vs. Kennard-Dale (15-7)

   Tipoff: 8 p.m.
   The skinny: Kennard-Dale turned it on late to sneak into the tournament. But can the Rams match up with the Division IV champions?
   Fighting Irish must: Tighten up on defense, especially inside the paint. Kennard-Dale has two high-scoring forwards, in sophomore Sara Tarbert (15.4 ppg) and Devon O'Kane (15.1). Shut them down, and you shut the Rams down.
   Rams must: Figure out some way to slow down York Catholic's offense. Easier said than done when your opposition includes a 2,000-point scorer -- senior Kady Schrann -- and three other starters capable of reaching double-digits on a given night.


Boys' tournament (All games Saturday)

At Dallastown
Hanover (17-4) vs. Central York (15-7)

   Tipoff: 6:30 p.m.
   The skinny: The Division IV co-champion Nighthawks will try to shut down the Panthers, who have won five straight during a late-season resurgence.
   Nighthawks must: Stay strong inside. Central will have the size advantage, and it boasts a pair of offensive threats in its frontcourt: Ricky Mosley and 6-foot-6 forward Spencer Ortmyer. Hanover will have to contain those two.
   Panthers must: Keep winning with defense, something Central has been able to do lately. In their last five games, the Panthers have allowed an average of 44 points. Their task this time: Corral Nighthawks' senior guard Pete Yingst, who is averaging 22.7 points per game.

At Dallastown
William Penn (21-1) vs. York Suburban (14-7)

   Tipoff: 8 p.m.
   The skinny: The Bearcats are looking for their third straight YAIAA championship game appearance. First, they'll have to dispatch the Division III runners-up.
   Bearcats must: Stick with exactly what they've been doing. William Penn has been impressive in all phases during its 20-game winning streak, led by a balanced offense that has four players averaging at least 11 points per game.
   Trojans must: Try to slow down the pace. If William Penn gets its transition game going, the Trojans probably can't keep up. But if Suburban can make it a halfcourt game, and get lots of timely shooting, it just might have a chance.

At Spring Grove
Dallastown (18-4) vs. Delone Catholic (15-7)

   Tipoff: 6:30 p.m.
   The skinny: Both of these teams are coming off close calls: Dallastown a gritty win at South Western, Delone an overtime victory at York Catholic. Could Saturday bring more of the same?
   Wildcats must: Take advantage of a deep and imposing frontcourt. Delone doesn't feature much in terms of height, and Dallastown should be able to press that edge in the paint and on the glass.
   Squires must: Slow down Four McGlynn and force the rest of the Wildcats roster to beat them with jump shots. It may sound obvious, but any of Delone's upset hopes hinge first on limiting McGlynn, the YAIAA's leading boys' scorer.

At Spring Grove
Eastern York (18-3) vs. Dover (15-7)

   Tipoff: 8 p.m.
   The skinny: The Eagles are making their first YAIAA tournament appearance. Talk about a tough way to start.
   Golden Knights must: Not settle solely for jump shots against the myriad of defensive looks the Eagles can present. Yes, Eastern certainly can shoot the ball from the outside, but it's even better when it works the ball into the paint.
   Eagles must: Hit open shots. Dover has players who can light it up from the outside on any given night. If they want to pull the upset here, they need to hit those good looks.

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