Thomas Young says he is "upset and happy" he won't be able to see Plymouth Whitemarsh play for the PIAA Class AAAA championship tonight at Penn State. While he'd like to cheer on his alma mater, he'll be busy trying to lead his college team to a championship of its own.
Young, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, is the leading scorer for Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which will meet Cal Poly Pomona at 1 p.m., today in Springfield, Mass., for the NCAA Division II national basketball title.
"At least I have a good reason for not being" at Penn State, said Young, who was named player of the year in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West.
Young is the Crimson Hawks' top scorer, averaging 16.3 points along with 5.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He scored a team-high 15, including a clinching three-point play with 20 seconds remaining, in Thursday night's 76-70 semifinal victory over St. Cloud State.
The Crimson Hawks (33-2), who are coached by former La Salle assistant Joe Lombardi, have won 15 straight games. Young and 6-6 junior forward Darryl Webb, who has four double-doubles in his five NCAA games, lead a strong six-man rotation that can go to seven or eight deep.
"I would say the key to our team's success is the togetherness that we have with each other," Young said. "Everybody here has bought into the system. Everybody believes in one another. Nobody is out there worrying about numbers. Basically, everybody is all about the team."
Four players average in double figures, including sophomore guard Julian Sanders out of Shawnee High in South Jersey, who averages 10.4 points and leads IUP with 83 three-point baskets.
"If you look at our roster, prior to coming to IUP, most of the guys came from a high school where they were the main guy," Young said. "Here, everybody sacrifices their own needs and does what the team needs."
Young, the leading career scorer in Plymouth Whitemarsh history, spent his first two seasons at Maryland-Baltimore County, where he averaged 9.6 points his sophomore season. But he didn't keep up his grades, and he was told it was unlikely he would play as a junior. So he looked elsewhere.
"IUP was one of the few schools that would accept me with my grades," he said. "Coach Lombardi called me and talked to me about taking a look at the school. He told me what we were trying to accomplish, and I liked what he was saying."
In addition to Young and Sanders, two other Philadelphia area players on the Crimson Hawks are junior guard Kevin Stewart of Academy Park (5.5 points, 3.4 assists per game) and freshman forward Chris Edwards of North Catholic (2.4 points, 2.0 rebounds per game).
Cal Poly Pomona (27-6) earned its berth in the final with a 71-63 win over Bentley, the team that eliminated Philadelphia University from the tournament. The Broncos are stingy on defense, allowing 56.3 points per game, and are 20-4 when holding the opposition to 60 or fewer.
"It's definitely going to be a high-energy game," Young said. "We watched Cal Poly play after our game. They have a lot of athleticism. We're playing for the national championship, so both teams are going to leave everything on the floor."