The names change, but the end result remains the same -- success.
Over the past decade, the York Catholic and Delone Catholic girls' basketball teams have come to define that word.
The Lady Irish standouts during that time frame have become ingrained in the minds of York County hoop fans -- Amanda Weaver, Megan Stewart, Kady Schrann, Brittany Hicks and now Morgan Klunk. The list of Delone stars over that period is no less illustrious -- Meredith Cox, Jana Zinn, Sierra Moore and now Maddie Comly.
This season, the tradition continues.
The Lady Irish (24-2) and the Squirettes (19-6) have already slugged it out twice this season, with York Catholic winning both times. The Irish won on their home court with relative
Round III in the parochial school rivalry will come at 6:15 Thursday night at the Giant Center, when the two teams will battle for the District 3-AA championship.
Reaching the district finals is nothing new for either team. In fact, this is the third straight year they've met for the district crown. York Catholic won the two previous title showdowns, 49-42 in 2012 and 61-45 in 2011.
If York Catholic wins again Thursday, it would extend its record-breaking streak of district titles to eight straight.
Given that background, it becomes fairly obvious that the Irish should be favored to win again Thursday.
But don't count out the Squirettes. They entered this season with lower expectations than in the past, mostly because Sierra Moore took her considerable talents to Duke University. Moore left Delone as the York-Adams League's all-time leading scorer in basketball -- boys or girls -- with 2,595 points.
Many thought Delone might struggle without Moore. After all, Moore pumped in nearly 25 points per game last season, while no other Squirette even averaged in double digits.
Instead, Delone has flourished this season by using a more balanced attack, spearheaded by a rising sophomore in Comly (13.4 ppg), and an emerging senior in Abbey Sponseller (10.8). Those two combined for 47 points in Delone's pulsating 73-72 overtime victory over Oley Valley in Monday's district semifinal. Sponseller scored a career-high 27 points in that game and her clutch 3-pointers were the major reason the Squirettes were able to overcome a 10-point deficit with less than two minutes left in regulation.
In many ways, this may be one of the best coaching jobs that Gerry Eckenrode has done in his 14 hugely successful years at Delone, where he's compiled a 342-95 record (78.3 percent).
Eckenrode's counterpart at York Catholic, Kevin Bankos, would almost certainly agree with that, and not just because he and Eckenrode are friends. After Tuesday's 67-41 district semifinal romp over Annville-Cleona, Bankos said this Delone team may be "more dangerous" than the recent groups led by Moore, because it is less "one-dimensional."
Bankos certainly knows what he's talking about when it comes to basketball. His record in seven seasons at York Catholic (206-19, 91.6 percent) proves that.
The Squirettes, however, still face a huge job if they hope to upset the Irish. Senior Morgan Klunk has been York Catholic's go-to player all season, averaging 17.6 ppg. In the District 3 playoffs, however, 6-foot, 1-inch sophomore Hannah Laslo has become an inside force, averaging 18 points in two district outings. For the season, Laslo is scoring 11.3 ppg.
But no matter who wins Thursday's showdown, it would surprise absolutely no one if the two teams meet up yet again in the PIAA state playoffs in March. That's how good these programs have been recently in the postseason. Since 2002, they've combined to win 10 district titles (seven for York Catholic and three for Delone) and six state titles (three each).
That's a truly remarkable record for two York-Adams rivals that sit just 25 miles apart. And that tradition of excellence shows no signs of waning.
Yes, the names may change, but the end result remains the same -- success.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dis patch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdis patch.com.