Minutes after Eastern York’s thumping of Hanover on Friday, I was standing in a corridor next to Eastern’s gym, talking to Golden Knights coach Larry Fisher.
I asked Fisher about Luke Barto — his hard-working, senior forward — and his face immediately lit up.
“Luke Barto does everything but put up big stats to make this team successful,” Fisher said. “He is the guy that allows us to play a lot of different defenses, and keeps everything in check behind while people are making plays out front.”
At times it’s easy to lose track of a player like Barto, what with high-scoring stars Austin Tillotson and Andrew Nicholas always on the court. But Barto is your classic glue guy, a 6-foot-3, big-bodied forward that anchors Eastern’s defense. He’s the muscle on an Eastern team that thrives so much on the speed and skill of players like Tillotson. Really, the Knights don’t have another player (besides Nicholas) that can replicate Barto’s size and rebounding ability.
He’ll score the occasional bucket, as well. Barto scored all eight of his points Friday in the third quarter, and pulled down five rebounds. Often, his buckets are the product of his hard work — like when he yanked down an offensive rebound in the third quarter, went up strong for the basket and was fouled (he missed the ensuing free throw).
But so often his most important contributions come when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands.
“The steals and the dunks,” Fisher said, “he’s the reason we can go create that pressure, because of Luke Barto.”
Red hot: Nicholas has been piling up the points the last four games. He’s averaging 29.4 per game in that span, keyed by Fisher’s suggestion to stay inside more and use his 6-foot-6 frame.
“Before the Simon Gratz game, Fisher told me to get inside,” Nicholas said. “He said if I stay inside we can be a dominant team.”
Eastern’s star junior scored 23 points Friday, and would have had more had he not been subbed out for good late in the third quarter, with the Golden Knights well ahead.
Ten of Nicholas’ 11 field goals Friday were inside the arc, and most of them were close to the basket.
“Imagine that,” Fisher joked. “Inside, big numbers.”
Nicholas also notched 10 rebounds and four assists against the Nighthawks.
“He needs to be a complete player, because he’s capable of that, and he knows,” Fisher said. “When he goes inside-outside, he can make a lot of people around him better.”