Morgan Klunk thinks that having been there, done that, will help she and her teammates when they take the floor on Friday for the PIAA State Class AA Girls' Basketball Championship Game.
The contest is set for noon at the Giant Center in Hershey.
"We're more comfortable because we were in the game last year," the York Catholic senior said on Wednesday evening before the start of practice. "That's always nice (to have the experience)."
The venue will be new this year (last year's game was played at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center), but the big-floor, big-arena effect will still be present.
York Catholic fell to a talented Seton LaSalle team, 71-47, in the 2012 championship game. Klunk was the Fighting Irish's leading scorer in that game with 12 points.
York Catholic's opponent this year is another Catholic school from Pittsburgh, Bishop Canevin.
Canevin and Seton LaSalle met four times this season, and each team won twice. Canevin prevailed, 56-47, in the District 7 (WPIAL) title game and 41-36 in the state semifinals.
"All their players are good, so that's obviously intimidating, but we know we can prepare for them," Klunk said of Canevin. "We have two practices, and we're going to use them to our advantage."
Canevin features two players, Erin Waskowiak and Carly Forse, who have scored more than 1,000 career points. Waskowiak is an NCAA Division I college recruit (Duquesne University).
"They're the best team we've seen, and we've seen some pretty good teams," York Catholic head coach Kevin Bankos said. "They're good, for sure, but we're obviously good to be there, too."
Klunk, who will play college basketball at Bloomsburg University next season, is York Catholic's only senior starter. She's joined in the starting lineup by three juniors, Zaenna Echevarria, Deanna Chesko and Amelia York, and sophomore Hannah Laslo. The 6-foot Laslo scored nine points, and Echevarria, six, in last season's title game.
Klunk, a member of the 1,000-career-points club, is averaging 17.0 a game, and Laslo is contributing 10.9.
"Morgan's our senior starter who's a cornerstone of our entire team," Bankos said. "But, our other kids know their roles, and that's why we're difficult to beat. We can't rely on just one or two players. We need everyone making contributions to be successful."
Bankos would love to get what the players delivered on Tuesday night in the semifinal against St. Basil Academy. Klunk scored 14 points, Echevarria had 10, and Laslo and Marissa Ressler contributed nine points apiece.
Of course, the task will be much more difficult on Friday for York Catholic, which will be appearing in its seventh state final in the past eight seasons. The Fighting Irish won three straight state crowns (2006-08) before finishing second in 2009, 2010 and 2012.
"Someone asked me am I going to be concerned if we lose our fourth straight," Bankos said. "I looked at him and said, 'there will be absolute zero concern on my face.' This (playing in the championship game) is a reward for all the work these kids put in during the summer hours and the winter hours. We're one of the last two teams playing. How can there be a negative in that?"
The game will be the final one for Klunk and York Catholic's other senior, Kathryn McNamara.
"The time flew," Klunk said. "I remember when I came in here so nervous as a sophomore, and now I'm a senior. I've been close with all the girls, and I confide in our other senior, Katie Mac."
Klunk will always remember the example that the seniors of two years ago set for the younger players.
"Leading by their play instead of by criticism," she said. "You're supposed to praise twice as much as you criticize. Just being encouraging, that's what I learned from those girls."
Bankos, who's in his seventh season, will enter Friday's game with an outstanding career record of 211-19.
Bishop Canevin head coach Tim Joyce has 206 career victories.
The Crusaders score 54.8 points a game and allow 32.9. York Catholic generates 59.1 points a contest and yields 38.2.
-- Reach Dick VanO linda at dvanolin firstname.lastname@example.org.