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York Catholic, Delone Catholic girls forced to wait for key showdown after postponement

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

Christmas was expected to come a few days early for fans of girls’ basketball in York-Adams Division III.

Just two days before the holiday, parochial rivals — and D-III co-favorites — York Catholic and Delone Catholic were slated to do battle for the first time this season.

The winner surely would have gone home happy for the holidays. But, alas, the wicked weather Thursday and Friday that dropped temperatures from the mid-40s down to single-digits was expected to carry precipitation with it that would make travel difficult to practically impossible.

While the temperature certainly did drop, the precipitation never materialized. But neither did the eagerly anticipated clash between the Fighting Irish and the Squirettes. To the disappointment of both programs, Friday night’s clash was postponed early Friday morning to sometime after the new year.

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“I just told (Delone coach) Gerry (Eckenrode) to just imagine kids coming back at 10 or 10:30 at night and their car has been sitting out all night and it doesn’t start,” said York Catholic coach Kevin Bankos, whose team is 4-0 overall and 3-0 in the division. “Who is going to take care of them? And some of them have to drive 40 minutes home and who knows what the roads in southern York County are like or anything like that.”

Delone Catholic against West York girls basketball during one of the tip off tournament games in West York on Dec. 3, 2022.

Eckenrode, whose team is off to a solid 6-1 start overall (2-0 in Division III), was begrudgingly forced to accept the postponement that now results in his team going nearly two weeks between games. The Delone girls' last contest was on Dec. 17 against South Western, and their next one now won’t happen until next week at the Mifflin County Holiday Tournament against Altoona.

“I just told him to get over it,” Bankos jokingly said.

While the showdown will remain on hiatus for a few weeks — the teams are slated to play their second contest Jan. 24 — the delay will give both teams the chance to improve before they finally face off. While disappointed himself for the delay, Bankos will gladly take the extra time to help steer his team towards its peak.

A good bit of that ascent will either happen or not with the play of the Irish bench. Bankos has been impressed with his team’s starting five — led by Mariah Shue and Paige O’Brien, who are averaging 12.5 and 10.3 points per game, respectively — but his first, second and third options off the bench have not produced to the level they will need to be at if the Irish want to contend for titles this season.

York Catholic's Paige O'Brien reaches for a rebound with Conwell-Egan's Kyliyah Carmichael gaining possession in a PIAA Class 3-A girls' basketball first-round state playoff game at York Catholic Tuesday, March 8, 2022. York Catholic would lose 52-46. Bill Kalina photo

“We have a bunch of kids that are capable of playing,” Bankos said. “But we’re not deep. In years past we would have Nos. 7, 8 and 9 and I feel those are probably your most important kids on the team if you want to go deep (into the postseason). Everybody has a No. 1 and No. 2, but who is your No. 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8, and that’s where it matters. There’s no question that we’re going to have to develop some of those kids that didn’t get much of a chance to play a lot last year.”

That’s an area in which Bankos readily gives Eckenrode and his squad the upper hand. Delone may lack a standout like they had the past four years with Giana Hoddinott, but the Squirettes have at least seven players Eckenrode can call on to make a difference at any point in a contest.

Stats and standings:Girls' basketball

Stats and standings:Boys' basketball

“I don’t think I have any one girl that has really stood out for us every night,” Eckenrode said. “They all kind of do. One night Megan Jacoby plays extremely well and sometimes Brielle (Baughman) plays really well. Ella Hughes has done a great job of defending the other team’s big player inside. Jocelyn (Robinson) does a really good job on defense as a freshman and she’ll get better on offense.

“Reece Meckley has done a really good job coming off the bench and providing us some offensive punch. Kaitlyn Schwarz has done a really good job of kind of controlling the paint and being our quote-unquote enforcer inside. And Laura Knobloch, who played a lot for the JV team last year, has improved her game to the point where we let her defend the other team’s best guard. She’s a good athlete and a tough, hard-nosed kid, much like her sister (Elise).”

If the rescheduled date doesn’t happen until late January or early February, which Bankos tentatively believes it could be, both teams will have ample experience playing against bigger and tougher competition. In addition to taking on Altoona, the Squirettes (ranked No. 4 in PIAA Class 4A) will get either the winner or loser of the Mifflin County-Red Lion contest on the second day of the Mifflin County tournament.

The Irish (No. 3 in Class 3A) have a busy January lined up that includes clashes with Wyomissing (No. 2 in 4A with an 8-0 record) as well as Columbia (No. 2 in 3A with a 3-0 record) in the first week of the month. York Catholic also gets Twin Valley in Wednesday at the Central York Holiday Tournament with a possible date with the Panthers (No. 2 in 6A with an 8-0 record) on the second day of that draw.

If the Irish can play well consistently over the next few weeks, that certainly should bode well when the parochial rivals finally do clash.

“Right now we’re in the part of the season where it’s not so much about, ‘How are we playing,’ but it’s more of, ‘Are we getting better?’” Bankos said. “So far we’ve shown some pretty good indications of what we could do, but we have to be able to follow that up, and that’s the challenge for good teams. Gerry’s team last year followed up game after game after game, and we have to learn how to go from a Bermudian game and then not struggle the next game.”