BASKETBALL

Inexperienced Delone Catholic girls' basketball team ready to start a new era

The Squirettes have been mainstays at the top of the York-Adams League, but can they keep it going?

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

Recent history has been filled with a lot of highlights for the Delone Catholic girls’ basketball program. 

The Squirettes have captured a PIAA Class 3A title, three District 3 titles and four York-Adams League Division III titles all in just the past four seasons, one of which was cut short due to the pandemic.

A great deal of that success, however, was the direct result of a slew of talent that has now moved up to the collegiate ranks. If the Squirettes (28-2 last season) are to extend that string of success another year, they will have to do so behind the likes of a handful of promising yet somewhat inexperienced talent.

Dallastown's Kiara McNealy and Delone Catholic's Kaitlyn Schwarz chase a loose ball during a York-Adams girls' basketball semifinal at York County School of Technology Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. Delone went on to win 39-28. Bill Kalina photo

“We lost six girls from last year’s team (that made it to the PIAA Class 4A quarterfinals) and five are playing college basketball right now,” Delone coach Gerry Eckenrode said. “And the other one probably could, but she decided that she didn’t want to do that. But I have my three juniors — Brielle Baughman, Ella Hughes and Kaitlyn Schwarz — that are back that played a lot last year.”

That trio of Baughman, Hughes and Schwarz combined for just a shade under 10 points a game (9.7) last season, but will have a lot more opportunities to score with the graduations of Giana Hoddinott (19.4 ppg, second in the Y-A) and Makenna Mummert (10.9 ppg). If things go well, at least one of them will pick up the mantle as the team’s primary scorer on most nights.

None of those three, however, is a primary ballhandler, which is pivotal position in Eckenrode’s lineup. That duty will rest primarily on the shoulders of sophomore Megan Jacoby, whose older sister, Abby, played a part in the team’s recent string of success.

“She was the point guard for the JV team last year,” Eckenrode said of the younger Jacoby. “But she’ll be sharing time with a freshman, Jocelyn Robinson, so I’ll have basically two young point guards, which I’ve been pleased with so far.”

While much of what Eckenrode has observed of his young squad thus far has come during practices and preseason scrimmages, he sees a lot of the same characteristics in this year’s squad as he saw in the one he coached to a state title in 2019.

“I like our attitude and eagerness to learn,” Eckenrode said. “These girls want to carry on the storied tradition we’ve built here.”

Delone Catholic girls' basketball coach Gerry Eckenrode vs Trinity in the District 3 Class 3-A girls's basketball final, Thursday, February 27, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

One of the more tangible aspects of the game that Eckenrode, who has racked up 540 wins over 20-plus seasons at Delone, likes from his squad is the group's overall speed. Under Eckenrode, the Squirettes have relied on a tough, pressure defense to change the flow of the game when needed.

Eckenrode has also enjoyed the most success when he has several girls on the court that can handle pressure themselves, something he believes Jacoby and Robinson can provide.

A good deal of Eckenrode’s feelings will either be proven right or wrong almost immediately, as the Delone girls will embark on an extremely difficult opening 10-game stretch to begin the campaign.

The Squirettes will face a West York team that made it to the state quarterfinals a season ago in the first round of the West York Tip-Off Tournament. The other half of that bracket features a Berks Catholic side that gave Delone trouble in the district draw last year, as well as defending PIAA Class 6A champ Plymouth-Whitemarsh, a side that rolled to 32 victories without a setback last season.

Delone will also see Trinity, the defending District 3 Class 3A champs, and Berks Catholic (possibly for a second time in a matter of days) next week. Throw in a couple of clashes with Division I contender South Western and parochial rival York Catholic, upon whom Eckenrode has bestowed the favorite label in Division III, before the holiday break.

“Our first 10 games are going to be tough,” Eckenrode said. “We’re almost brand-new and we have a big learning curve we’ll have to complete. We’ll definitely be much better at the end of the year than we are at the beginning of the year, but the question is whether or not we can accelerate that, and I just don’t know.”