TOP 5 COUNTDOWN: #1 - 2004-05 Men's Basketball
EDITORS NOTE: This is the fifth and final part in a five part series of the top teams from the past decade in York College Spartan Athletics. Today we look at the 2004-2005 York College men's basketball team. That season, the Spartans went 22-2 in the regular season, won the Capital Athletic Conference regular season and tournament championship, and advanced to the NCAA Division III Final Four in Salem, VA. The Spartans finished the year with a school-record 28 wins.
The number one squad in our countdown is one of the most complete teams in York College athletics history. The 2004-05 York College men's basketball squad had a little bit of everything. They had a great leader, talented players, and an unselfish work ethic where no individual cared who got the credit for the team's success.
"After being off the court for five years you realize how lucky you were to be a part of such a great team where the only thing everyone cared about was winning," states former center Brian Singer. "You begin to take it for granted and appreciate it more when it is gone. Those were some of the best days of my life."
The Spartans sprinted out of the gate with a 5-0 start including tournament titles at Albright College and their own York College Invitational. The York College Invitational title came courtesy of a 79-59 win over Methodist.
York suffered its first setback in the Capital Athletic Conference opener at Goucher on December 1, falling 75-72. The Gophers got a three-point play with 32 seconds left and the Spartans, for one of the few times during the year, couldn't counter as York started the conference season 0-1.
Undeterred by the setback, the Green and White ripped off nine wins in a row including a third tournament championship when they won the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament, slipping Edgewood (Wisc.) 80-77 in the title game. Junior Kenny Fass and freshman Chad McGowan each had 20 points in the winning effort for the Green and White. Senior captain Ben Seibert contributed one of his patented all around games with nine points, seven rebounds, four assists, two blocked shots and two steals for the Spartans.
Boasting a 14-1 mark including a 4-1 mark in the conference, York suffered its second loss of the year, a tough 79-78 loss at Mary Washington on January 22. The Spartans would not taste defeat the remainder of the regular season as they concluded the regular season campaign with eight consecutive wins.
The 12-2 conference mark gave the Green and White the top seed in the CAC Tournament. They opened tournament play with a 78-65 win over Gallaudet in the quarterfinals. McGowan and junior Brandon Bushey paced four Spartans in double figures with 19 points each. Brad Zerfing added 12 points and five assists while Singer contributed 13 points and seven boards in the win.
Next up was one of the two teams to defeat York during the regular season in Goucher. The Spartans drilled the Gophers as they posted an 89-64 win at Wolf Gym. Singer had a big night with 19 points and 10 rebounds for the double-double while Fass chipped in with 17 points, five rebounds and five assists. Zerfing contributed 13 points while sophomore Joe Yeck came off the bench to add 11 points.
That set the stage for the Spartans to host the 2005 CAC championship game against Catholic University. York had never won a championship game despite having a number of quality teams in the 1990's. Tied at 60 with 3:21 left in the game, Zerfing hit four straight free throws to extend the Spartan advantage to four with 1:38 left. Zerfing nailed four more free throws in the next minute, pushing the York lead to 68-60. The Spartans finished the game outscoring Catholic 13-2 over the final 3:06 to earn the championship game victory. Bushey was huge with 21 points while Zerfing added 13, McGowan had 11 and Singer had 10.
That set the stage for something never experienced at York College as the Spartans were selected to host an NCAA Tournament game. The Spartans got a national bye in the first round and welcomed a very talented Virginia Wesleyan team to old Wolf Gymnasium for a Saturday evening contest. The old gym was packed 60 minutes before tip as the campus and local community, who had supported the Spartans throughout the year, came out in droves. The Spartans jumped out to a 13-point lead but the Marlins trimmed their deficit to two before York pushed their advantage back to eight at the break. York exploded out of the intermission with Bushey drilling a three and hitting a jumper as the lead grew back to 13. The Marlins outscored York 24-10 over the next nine minutes as they took a 58-57 lead with 10:16 remaining in the game. The Spartans responded like champions as they smacked Virginia Wesleyan with a 14-2 spurt started with a three from Fass. At the end of the run, the Spartan lead would not fall below six as they cruised to the 90-80 win. Bushey had 23 points while Fass contributed 22 points and 10 rebounds. Seibert also had a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards. McGowan was the fourth Spartan in double figures with 11 points while junior Paddy Lee handed out eight assists.
Next up for the Spartans was a trip to Ramapo College to play WPI in the Sweet 16. The Green and White was ready to play that night as they exploded for a 99-80 win in a game that was never in doubt after an early second half run. The Spartans built the lead to 28 before settling for the 19-point win. Zerfing exploded for a career-high 23 points while Bushey added 18 points. Seibert had a team-high 12 rebounds to go along with eight points, while Fass (11 points) and McGowan (10 points) also reached double figures.
The win over WPI, teamed with King's College upset over host Ramapo, set the stage for the Elite Eight game between the Spartans and the Monarchs. It did not look good for the Spartans at the start of the game as they trailed 16-7 just under eight minutes into the contest. York battled back and cut their deficit to 32-30 at the half.
The Spartans opened the second stanza with a 13-4 run to take a 43-36 lead with 14:27 left in regulation. The Monarchs trimmed York's lead to two but the Green and White responded with a 13-3 run as the Spartan lead grew to 12. The York lead would not fall below 10 the rest of the way as the Spartans earned their first-ever trip to the NCAA Division III Final Four in Salem, .
The York experience at the Final Four was memorable for all involved despite losing both games. The Spartans fell to eventual national champion Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the semifinals and to Calvin in the third place game.
The season was one that is still cherished by most of the members of that team.
Bushey knows that team was not like many others.
"Our team was unique for many reasons. Our chemistry was amazing. Many of us knew of each or played together all through high school. It was amazing that our top eight to nine players were home grown York County players as well. As a team, we were always relaxed and enjoyed every moment. However, when the horn blew we knew it was game time. We really did not care about individuals; we only cared about the end result. Overall, it was an amazing experience spent with amazing people. This includes team members and people off the court that made it happen," states Bushey.
Zerfing was another one of the Spartans' local York County products and he reinforces what Singer and Bushey said.
"One thing our team had that just can't be coach was our chemistry," said Zerfing. "During practice we battled it out on the court to the point where we almost got in fist fights but yet we were best friends off the court. In the end, none of us cared who got the credit as long as we were getting the wins. By far the best group of guys I have ever played with."
Bushey finished the year leading the very balanced offensive attack as the guard averaged 16.0 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. Fass was outstanding all year as he averaged 11.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. He also shot an amazing 51.7% from the floor and 48.9% from three, astounding numbers considering he shot a large percentage of his shots from the perimeter. McGowan, who earned the CAC Rookie-of-the-Year award, added 10.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game while Singer was the fourth Spartan to average double figures at 10.5 points per game in addition to averaging 5.7 boards per game. Seibert, who provided tremendous leadership as the Spartan captain during the year, added 9.0 points and a team-best 6.7 rebounds per game despite standing just 6'6".
Along with success on the court, the Spartans received a bushel full of post-season accolades. Bushey earned first-team All-CAC and NABC All-Regional accolades. He was also named to the ESPN The Magazine Third-Team Academic All-America. McGowan was named the conference's best rookie while Spartan head coach Jeff Gamber was named the CAC Coach-of-the-Year for the fourth time in his illustrious York career.
The core of the 2004-05 team returned the next year as the Spartans went 25-4 to close out the best two-year period in the history of the men's basketball program.
That wraps up our look back at the best teams to open the 2000's. It was fun for us to research and write the recaps and we hope you enjoyed looking back as much as we did.