Teddy Bears Fly as Spartans Down Blue Jays, 66-55

YORK, PA – The York College women's had two big events going on Thursday night. Sure they had a non-conference game scheduled with local rival Elizabethtown. However, the centerpiece of the evening came at halftime when the Spartans participated in the Teddy Bear Toss, an event benefiting Bekah Tuckey, the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Caitlyns' Smile.

The Spartans made the evening a complete success with a 66-55 win over the Blue Jays as York improves to 11-0 overall. The 11 wins to start a season continues to build the school record for fastest start to a season. The Blue Jays fall to 2-7 with the loss.

The Spartans were a little sluggish in the opening minutes as the Blue Jays held an early 16-14 lead just over seven minutes into the game. The Blue Jays took their final lead of the game on a Taylor Krieider jumper at the 11:04 mark, giving the guests an 18-17 lead. The Spartans then embarked on an 11-0 run as the York defense clamped down on the Blue Jays. Elizabethtown went 10:18 of game time between scores. The Blue Jays were fortunate to be down only 10 but the Spartan offense wasn't clicking on all cylinders.

The Blue Jays scored five of the final seven points of the half to cut their halftime deficit to seven at 30-23.

Halftime featured the Teddy Bear Toss, which netted 340 bears for Caitlyns' Smile, an organization that provides hospitalized children with teddy bears during their stay in the hospital. The Spartan efforts, spearheaded by freshman forward Abbey Rhodes (Hanover, Pa./Hanover), also raised over $500.00 that will be donated to Bekah's family and the Kimmel Cancer Center.

The Spartans seemed to be motivated by the halftime festivities as York came out of the break and hit the Blue Jays with a 7-0 run that covered just under two minutes. The run featured a pair of Kristen Haley (Silver Spring, Md./Georgetown Invitational) lay ups sandwiching a Kelsey Murphy (Olney, Md./Good Counsel) triple.

The Blue Jays put together a 6-0 spurt midway through the half as they cut the York lead to seven but the Spartans answered with an 8-0 run to push the lead back to 15. The Spartan lead would grow to 17 before settling for the 11-point victory.

York was led by the tandem of junior posts Brittany Hicks (Dover, Pa./York Catholic) and Haley. Hicks registered a game-high 21 points while she also had 13 rebounds for her team-leading eighth double-double of the year. Hicks was 7-for-14 from the floor including 2-of-4 from three while she also converted 5-of-7 from the stripe. Hicks had five assists, three steals, and two blocked shots. Haley notched her third double-double of the year with 17 points and 13 rebounds. She also had four steals and three blocked shots.

Junior point guard Aja Wallpher (Ellicott City, Md./Seton Keough) had another great floor game as the reigning CAC Player of the Week had nine assists, nine rebounds, seven points, three steals and a pair of blocked shots.  Senior Loreta Tonuzi (Hazlet, N.J./Raritan) came off the bench and gave the Spartans eight big points and an assist in 16 minutes of action.

Kreider was very good for the Blue Jays as she recorded a double-double of her own with 18 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Nadine Yunginger contributed 15 points, five rebounds, three assists, and three steals to the Blue Jay effort. Kendra Beittel was the third Blue Jay in double figures with 10 points.

Spartan head coach Betsy Witman knew the game wasn't York's best performance.

"Overall, I wasn't particularly happy with how we played," said the long-time Spartan mentor. "I am certainly glad we won the game but I give Etown a lot of credit, they played hard and very physical. They do a lot to make up for their lack of height. At times, we didn't do a good job of defending them and taking care of the ball. We had been doing a good job of keeping our turnovers down but this was a game where was saw more pressure and ended up with 18 turnovers."

Fortunately for the Spartans, Elizabethtown converted those 18 Spartan miscues into just 11 points in the loss. York forced 17 turnovers and turned that into 18 points for the Green and White.

The Spartans ended up shooting 40.7% for the game, a number buoyed by 55% shooting in the second half. York converted 6-of-19 (31.6%) from deep while they went just 12-of-22 (54.5%) from the stripe, their second worst effort of the year from the line.

York limited the Blue Jays to just 30.8% shooting from the floor including 5-for-15 from three. Elizabethtown was solid from the line, making 10-of-12 from the stripe.

Witman saw some good things too from her squad.

"I thought we did a good job of finding our mismatches," said Witman. "We got the ball into Kristen Haley and they really didn't have an answer for her. Brittany Hicks, Kailee Knight (Crofton, Md./South River), and Kristen all did a great job on the board. I like the 20 offensive rebounds. Brittany had six and that's what she does best."

The Spartans finished the game with a 49-39 edge on the glass, their biggest margin on the boards this season.

Witman was happy to see the response to the Teddy Bear Toss.

"It's something that Abbey Rhodes started at Hanover High School. That is also my alma mater. When I was recruiting Abbey, I told her that if she ended up coming to York, we would continue on the tradition. We are about community service. We do the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament, the three-point attack to raise funds for the American Cancer Society, we have our "Play for Kay Day" where we raise money for the Kay Yow Foundation. We thought it would be fun for the spectators to get to participate in this fun event. I thought it was a good night with a great turn out."

York continues a very challenging stretch of their schedule as they host Richard Stockton in a non-conference contest on Saturday. Tip time at Wolf Gymnasium is set for 2:00 pm.

Photo: The Spartans pose with Bekah Tuckey after the 66-55 victory over Elizabethtown on Teddy Bear Toss night at Wolf Gymnasium

Audio Highlights courtesy of Darrell Henry - The Voice of the Spartans