HERSHEY -- Numerous York Catholic girls' basketball standouts have played under the bright lights at the Giant Center over the past eight years.
Greats such as Kady Schrann, Morgan Klunk, Amanda Weaver, Rachel Forjan, Megan Stewart and Ashton Bankos have all performed well under the pressure of the District 3-AA title contest.
While those standouts have certainly shined, there have been just as many new stars who found their first glimmers of brightness on that same stage.
Girls such as Mary McGann, Forjan and current player Zaenna Echevarria each made a name for herself when the hardware was on the line.
Thursday night, a new name can be added to that list -- Marissa Ressler. Against rival Delone Catholic in the district title game, Ressler, who averages just 4.9 points a game, provided a much-needed spark for the Irish.
Ressler broke open an 11-11 tie after one quarter with a layin. Moments later the sophomore drained a 3-pointer that ignited a 10-2 run that propelled York Catholic to an impressive 56-38 victory over the Squirettes.
The triumph marked the eighth year in a row that the Irish (25-2) have left the district finals with the championship trophy, extending their own record.
While teammates Echevarria (14 points) and Klunk (13 points) scored more points, the contributions from Ressler -- who poured in 10 points to go with seven rebounds -- were undeniably important, according to Irish coach Kevin Bankos.
"A key I thought tonight for us was Marissa Ressler," Bankos said. "Her rebounding probably saved us another eight or nine points on the other end of the floor. And then to pour in 10 and hit a big 3 as soon as she gets into the game, I thought that was a real big key for us."
Echevarria can relate. She went through the same thing a year ago. While she only scored five points in last year's title clash, those baskets, in addition to big assists, came at key moments when the Irish prevailed 49-42 against another Delone team.
"I don't think it's super easy, because obviously there's a lot of pressure," Echevarria said. "But it's nice because the other team doesn't expect you to score."
The impressive part of York Catholic's showing was how quickly they rebounded from an ugly opening four minutes. With 3:54 left in the first period, the Irish trailed 9-3, but managed to even things up by the end of the quarter. Fast-forward four more minutes and they were up by seven (18-11).
What happened over that eight-minute stretch was a mystery to Delone coach Gerry Eckenrode.
"After the first quarter, they should have felt good," Eckenrode said. "But as for the second quarter, I have no idea. I don't know where that feeling good about yourself goes away in such a short period of time."
Delone's biggest trouble all night was its inconsistency in making shots. The Squirettes (19-7) made just 15-of-50 attempts (30 percent), which prevented a full-scale comeback.
"When they're watching us not score and they go down there and have free rein to do what they want, it's easy to have confidence," Eckenrode said. "When you start thinking about every shot that you take, when it's a tight ballgame, then it's a whole different ballgame. That's about it."
After winning the second quarter by a 16-4 clip, the Irish rode into the half up 27-15. The lead stretched to as much as 16 after a quick 4-0 burst by York Catholic to open the second half.
Delone, which rallied from a 10-point deficit with under two minutes left in its semifinal victory over Oley Valley Monday night, did attempt to rally in the third. The Squirettes followed York Catholic's opening salvo with a 9-0 run of their own that cut the deficit to 31-24 after Maddie Comly sank a 3-pointer.
But just when it looked like things could get interesting, the Irish responded in kind. Echevarria ignited an 11-3 run to the end of the period with a big 3-pointer and York Catholic never looked back.
While winning eight titles in a row is a record-breaking accomplishment, the thrill of winning the big game never gets old for the Irish and their coach.
"We have such a great legacy behind us and just to continue it is great," Ressler said. "It's amazing, honestly."
Bankos, who's never coached a season in which his team didn't win a district title, refuses to take his program's remarkable run for granted.
"I'll hang this (medal) right next to the other ones and be as proud as can be," he said. "But if we're fortunate to make a run at it next year, it's going to feel like the first one."
Bethany Ball led the Squirettes with 13 points, seven of which came in first quarter. Comly, who was held scoreless in the first half, poured in 11 in the second half for Delone.
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.