By RYAN VANDERSLOOT
HARRISBURG — It’s bound to happen one of these days, but Sunday just wasn’t that day for the York Mighty Ants.
Playing in the Eastern Basketball Alliance title game for a second year in a row, all the Ants had to do to take home their first crown was beat the Harrisburg Horizon.
While York was able to hang with the Horizon throughout the first half at Manny Weaver Gym, the hosts took control with a 21-3 run early in the second half. The visitors drew within five points in the final minute but again fell to Harrisburg, 93-85.
The setback marked the seventh consecutive loss, and fourth this year, for York against the Horizon in the Ants’ two-year existence.
Kelvin Parker of the York Mighty Ants lays the ball up against the Harrisburg Horizon during the Eastern Basketball Alliance championship game on Sunday. Parker, a York High graduate, led the Ants with 29 points, seven rebounds and six assists, but the Ants lost the game, 93-85. April 19, 2015. (JOHN A. PAVONCELLO — firstname.lastname@example.org)
“They’re a good team,” Ants player/owner Seth Leonard said. “They know what they’re doing. They’re battle tested. And right now it’s a process (for us). Small simple steps built up over a long period of time … that’s going to lead us to success.”
In the previous clashes this season, the Ants were able to establish an early lead before the Horizon (9-0) rallied to take control. While the same situation panned out again Sunday, this time York was able to rally back. The teams were tied at 43-43 heading into the intermission.
But after scoring the first four points of the second half, the Ants were blitzed by a Harrisburg side that has won a league-best 18 games in a row dating back to last season.
Head Coach Brandon DeShields, who has been forced into action this season because of some roster issues, had a different take asked about his team’s ability to hang with the Horizon throughout the first half.
“We don’t look at it like that,” DeShields said. “We look at it like we’re supposed to be that team and that they hung in there with us. Mentality-wise we look at it differently than just us hanging in there.”
The Ants, who played with just eight players Sunday, were in large part done in again by their shooting. York connected on just 6-of-28 attempts (21 percent) from beyond the arc.
Former York High standout Kelvin Parker led York with 29 points to go with seven rebounds and six assists. Kasheef Festus chipped in 14 while Leonard and Jaron Walker each tallied 11 for the Ants (3-8).
Demond Vance led Harrisburg with 21 points while Denzel Jackson added 12 to go with a game-high 13 rebounds for the Horizon.
Roster issues: One key that Leonard pointed to as a problem for the organization this season was his roster. While the Ants have more than 10 players listed as eligible, getting them to turn out to the games this year proved to be a challenge.
That resulted in DeShields, who strictly was a coach a year ago, having to suit up and play when only six other players showed up for contests.
“In some of our games we only had seven players,” Leonard said. “When you’re running up and down the court like that, with just seven guys … I don’t care what kind of shape you’re in, that’s tough. So in the last three games of the season we made a management move to get our coach to play. Now he’s in good enough shape to play, but he’s a better asset to us as a coach.”
“Last year we had 11 and 12 guys,” DeShields added. “So if somebody got tired I could just put the next man in. Now it’s like you have to still play if you’re tired and that’s when a 21-3 run happens.”
One player who missed Sunday’s contest was starting point guard Job Casimir. Casimir lives in Connecticut, so getting to games has been a chore some times. Sunday he couldn’t travel to Harrisburg because of his job.
Leonard definitely felt Casimir was missed.
“He doesn’t score field goals for us, but when he’s here he makes the team different,” Leonard said. “He’s one of the best players at the point guard position that I’ve played with.”
Missing Casimir brought Leonard back full circle to those roster woes.
“For us to give that type of effort today, without him, it’s just the story of our season,” Leonard said.
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.
Parker 4 1-3 10, Breeden 3 2-2 10, Hockaday 2 2-4 6, Richardson 4 0-1 8, Vance 7 6-7 21, Jackson 4 4-10 12, Peay 2 0-2 4, Cor. Boone 5 0-0 11, Cod. Boone 3 3-4 9.
Three-point field goals — Breeden (2), Parker, Cor Boone, Vance. Totals — 35 18-33 93.
Leonard 3 5-9 11, Parker 9 8-10 29, Festus 6 2-2 14, Harbold 1 0-0 2, Tipton 2 0-0 5, Edwards 0 0-0 0, Rivers 3 0-1 7, Walker 3 3-4 11, DeShields 3 1-2 8.
Three-point field goals — Parker (3), Tipton, Rivers, DeShields. Totals — 30 19-28 85.
Harrisburg 27 16 32 18 — 93 York 22 21 20 22 — 85