Delone Catholic girls knocked out of state playoffs by Allentown Central Catholic
The Squirettes saw their 25-4 season come to an end in the PIAA Class 4A second round.
CORNWALL — Some teams in the PIAA state basketball playoffs have a lot of sizzle and flash. That would not be the case for the Allentown Central Catholic girls’ basketball team. While not lacking in talent by any means, the Vikettes rely on solid team basketball to compete and claim victories.
So, in a sense, the ACC girls were facing a mirror image of themselves when they faced Delone Catholic on Wednesday evening at Cedar Crest High School in a Class 4A second-round tilt. The sizzle and flash went out the door for the Squirettes with the graduation of a slew of seniors from last year’s squad. In its place came a bevy of underclassmen — mostly sophomores and juniors — that bided their time behind one of the winningest classes in school history.
When the two blue-collar teams squared off in Lebanon vying for a berth in the state quarterfinals, the matchup was even throughout the first quarter. After taking the lead with 4:54 left in the first half, the Delone girls were in position to do everything they wanted.
Unfortunately for coach Gerry Eckenrode and his squad, the Squirettes had immense issues sinking the basketball. Delone wouldn’t score another point for over eight minutes — which was midway through the third period — which gave the Vikettes a chance to race away.
The District 3 runners-up eventually got things going late in the third, but it was too little, too late, as the York-Adams Division III champs saw their season come to an end with a 51-37 setback against the District 11 champions.
“You can’t score two points over 12 minutes and expect to win,” Eckenrode said. “And that’s exactly what we did.”
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Tied at 14-all after the first period, neither side was able to get on the board in the second until Kaitlyn Schwarz lofted in a short hook shot to put the Squirettes (25-4) back on top. Little did anyone know that the Delone girls would not score again until just before the four-minute mark of the third when Ella Hughes drove in the lane and scored on a layup.
Between what was Schwarz’s only basket and the next one that Hughes hit was 19 straight points from ACC. Hughes’ hoop made it a 33-18 contest, a deficit the Squirettes were able to narrow to 10 (35-25) a short time later after a 3-pointer from freshman Reece Meckley.
Meckley, who finished with a team-high 10 points — all of which came in the second half — hit a huge 3-pointer early in the fourth that drew Delone within seven (38-31), but that was the closest the girls from McSherrystown would get.
“The second quarter,” Eckenrode said before a brief pause, “we just didn’t score. It’s just as simple as that. I have no magic recipe. That’s been our problem in big games too often.”
Brielle Baughman finished with eight points, six of which came in the first period. Megan Jacoby scored five of her seven points in the first quarter as well. Hughes also finished with seven points.
The Squirettes were previously held to a single point for nearly 12 minutes of the District 3 championship against Wyomissing, a contest they dropped 35-30. They also had a scoring lull in their first-round win over MaST Charter on Saturday, but Delone was clearly the better team that afternoon. That was not the case Wednesday, as Allentown Central Catholic (26-3) filled up the hoop to finish the first half on a 15-0 run.
The deficit forced Eckenrode to turn to a press to try to tilt the game to his team’s advantage. Over the previous four seasons, the Squirettes were downright deadly when they pressed, but this year’s squad is not of the same ilk.
“Pressing is not our thing,” Eckenrode said. “Last year’s was a pressing team, but this year’s team … we’re not as fast as last year’s team, and basketball savvy-wise, we’re probably not there either. They were seniors last year, but these are younger kids.”
Delone did force 14 ACC turnovers, one more than the Squirettes committed themselves. They also fought back despite a deficit that reached 17 points in the third quarter.
The good news is that the Squirettes will return everyone a year from now. Eckenrode hopes that the experience and lessons learned over the past three months will pay off for the girls come next December. His message to his squad, however, was to not take anything for granted.
"When I was in there in the team locker room, I just said, 'Look … I don’t care what you did this year, next year there are no guarantees,'" Eckenrode said. "I had one team in mind, and I won’t say who that was, but they had everybody back from last year and really never got better. So I just told them that there was no guarantee that you’re going to get better.
"We had a 25-4 record — that’s awful tough to top."