HERSHEY — Winning a title is something that few athletes and coaches ever forget.
Winning the first one, however, is something truly special.
While winning titles has become a habit for the York Catholic girls’ basketball program over the past decade and a half, it's something that the Linden Hall girls have never experienced.
So, in a sense, it was fitting that the Lions earned the program’s first-ever District 3 girls’ basketball crown Tuesday evening at the Giant Center in Hershey against the Irish.
Linden Hall, which features four players over six feet tall, stormed out to a quick lead and never looked back. Led by a big night from 6-foot, 2-inch senior Hetta Saatman (14 points, nine rebounds), the Lions rolled to a 56-27 triumph in the 2-A title contest. Saatman is a Drexel recruit.
“I remember the first (district title) that we won,” York Catholic coach Kevin Bankos said. “I’ll never forget it. I remember (head coach) Andy (Bria) wearing that (medal) everywhere. I would tell him to take it off.”
Even in defeat, Bankos stood near the halfcourt line and watched and clapped as the Linden Hall girls all received their first-place medals as well as the District 3 2-A championship trophy.
“I was happy to see those kids and coaches get a chance to enjoy it,” he said. “I’m just sorry that it was against us.”
While the Irish fought hard, something that made Bankos proud, it was clear early on that it was not York Catholic’s night.
“We had two choices,” said Bankos, who has led the Irish to 14 straight district finals. “We could pressure them and we can hope they didn’t make their shots.”
It was apparent at the end of the first quarter that the Lions were comfortable playing on the spacious floor at the Giant Center for the second year in a row. That was evident when 6-foot-1 junior Favour Mbeiedeougu banked in a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that put the Lions ahead 23-7 after one quarter.
“You know when you bank in a 30-foot 3-pointer that it’s going to be a tough night,” Bankos said.
Linden Hall size tough to deal with for Irish: The size advantage of the third-seeded Lions (18-3) was imposing for the top-seeded Irish from the opening tip. Even though not many shots were blocked, the fear of them being blocked often led to quick attempts by the Irish that were off the mark.
“They make you shoot faster and they make you shoot higher,” Bankos said. “And then you wait for someone coming across because you think they’re going to block your shot. So all of our shots were contested, even though they weren’t really contested.”
Linden Hall guards impress Bankos: Bankos was also impressed by Linden Hall’s two primary guards, Anya Miller and Marta Celebic, who handled most of the pressure that the Irish applied at times.
“I think it’s a shame that not many people know how talented their guards are,” Bankos said. “They’re good. There were one or two times when we tried to press and they just blew by us.”
Still headed to states: While not much went right for the Irish Tuesday, Bankos didn’t sound too worried about his team as they embark on the PIAA state playoffs. That’s probably because most other 2-A teams won’t have a 6-5 post player and three 6-1 forwards on the roster.
“I think this group is overachieving,” he said. “With what we lost and the new additions and the youth that we have, I think they overachieved at times. I think our biggest struggle is that, when it goes bad, we don’t have the one or two girls that can step it up right now to get us back in it. I know it’s in there and that they’re capable, it’s just on us (the coaches) to get it out of them.”
Gabby Coley led the Irish (18-7) with eight points.
The Irish will next play on Friday, March 8, at a time and location yet to be determined. They will get the District 12 (Philadelphia) champion at a location that will be somewhere within the Philadelphia city limits.
Gettysburg 43, Twin Valley 33: At Twin Valley, Gettysburg punched its ticket to the District 3 Class 5-A title game.
The No. 3 seed Warriors improved to 22-5. No. 2 seed Twin Valley fell to 19-6.
Anne Bair had 15 points for Gettysburg, while Karli Bortner added 10.
Gettysburg will face No. 12 seed Palmyra in the title game at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Santander Arena in Reading. Palmyra (15-10) won the other semifinal in overtime over No. 1 seed Solanco, 54-51. Solanco fell to 20-6.
Eastern York 54, Susquehanna Township 38: At Wrightsville, the Golden Knights kept their state playoff hopes alive with a District 3 Class 4-A consolation win.
No. 5 seed Eastern improved to 16-8. No. 8 seed Susquehanna Twp. ended at 12-13.
Cass Arnold led Eastern with 17 points, while Addy Malone added 15.
Eastern will now face No. 7 seed Bermudian Springs (17-8) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Wrightsville in the fifth-place game. The winner will earn a state berth.
Bermudian won its consolation on Tuesday over No. 6 Big Spring, 60-31.
Hannah Chenault (20), Skyler West (13) and Emily Shearer (10) each reached double digits in points for Bermudian.
Big Spring finished at 14-8.
Mechanicsburg 52, Spring Grove 50, 2-OT: At Spring Grove, the Rockets dropped a District 3 Class 5-A consolation contest.
The No. 4 seed Rockets (19-9) will now take on No. 11 seed Elizabethtown (17-9) in the seventh-place game at 7 p.m. Thursday at Spring Grove. Both teams will advance to the state playoffs.
Haley Wagman led Spring Grove with 19 points, while Ella Kale added 11.
Elizabethtown dropped its consolation game to No. 7 seed Lower Dauphin on Tuesday, 44-39.
No. 8 seed Mechanicsburg improved to 20-5.
Harrisburg Christian 27, Christian School of York 20: At Harrisburg, CSY saw its season end with a District 3 Class 1-A consolation loss.
No. 8 seed CSY fell to 10-13. No. 4 seed Harrisburg Christian improved to 20-6. Harrisburg Christian will play in the fifth-place game on Thursday. A win in that game will put Harrisburg Christian in the state playoffs.
Anna Cardillo led CSY with 12 points.
Manheim Twp. 74, Central York 69, OT: At Central York, the No. 7 seed Panthers couldn't hold on to a 42-32 third-quarter edge in a District 3 Class 6-A consolation contest.
The loss ended Central's season at 19-7. No. 11 seed Manheim Twp. improved to 19-8 and clinched a state berth. The Blue Streaks will play in the sixth-place game on Thursday.
Evan Eisenhart (16), Gabe Guidinger (13), Larry Hunt (11) and Taylor Wright-Rawls (10) each reached double digits for Central York.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.