LITITZ – There were definitely a lot more whispers this season about the York Catholic girls' basketball team.
Winners of 10 consecutive District 3-AA titles, there were those who wondered if this would be the year that the Fighting Irish would finally fall.
Early struggles left York Catholic with an atypical 7-4 record on Jan. 5. But the Irish have won 10 of 11 since then to get back into a more familiar position.
Those whispers, however, continued to be heard when the Irish entered the District 3-AA tournament as the No. 3 seed. Suffice it to say, Irish guard Kate Bauhof did her best to quiet the doubters Monday evening in the district semifinals against No. 2 seed Wyomissing.
The York Catholic sophomore sensation made sure her team would get a chance to go for title No. 11 with another career night. Bauhof scored 13 of her game-high 41 points in the first quarter to help the Irish set the tone. The Spartans had no shot at changing the tone after that, and the York-Adams League Division III co-champions rolled to an 80-51 victory at Manheim Township High School.
Coach Kevin Bankos and his Irish (20-5) will battle Camp Hill, a 53-43 winner over Delone Catholic in the Monday's other semifinal, at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Giant Center in Hershey. That showdown will be a rematch of last year's title tilt, which the Irish won 63-57.
“We don't really want to talk about getting to 11," Bankos said afterward. "We just talk about the process of getting to that (district title) game. As I just told them there at the end of the game, that there's not many people besides this circle of people in this locker room that believed that we would get there.”
Bauhof, who tied her career-high in points for a contest, admitted that she was nervous before the opening whistle, but no one could really tell that by her play. The York-Adams League's leading scorer scored nine of her team's first 11 points in the first quarter.
Whenever the Spartans tried to double-team Bauhof, the guard would find a way to dribble around them while driving to the hoop. That resulted in a number of layups, free throws and, on a handful of occasions, both. She finished with 13 baskets (two 3-pointers) to go with a 13-of-18 showing at the foul line. The chances to do that Monday clearly perked up the sophomore standout.
“I like penetrating more," Bauhof said. "Coach tells us to take what (the defense) gives us and those jump shots I had early came off great screens. But we just work on taking what they give us in given situations.”
Help from teammates: As good as Bauhof was on Monday, her teammates were also responsible for making the lead comfortable all night. Jania Wright finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Teslyn Sterner (seven points) and Emily Laslo (six points) also chipped in both offensively and defensively.
“Our screening was really good tonight," Bauhof said. "And the ball movement too.”
Bankos couldn't be happier with his whole team, which features just one senior starter (Laslo). His youngsters took their lumps earlier this year, but the price they paid has them back in a familiar position.
“It's a process," Bankos said. "The development of freshmen and sophomores in November start to become (more like) juniors and seniors at the end. In my opinion, we didn't lower our expectations (for this season). We just had to bring them up to speed as fast as we can.”
Camp Hill next: Now Bankos and company will have to get ready for a Camp Hill side that is itching to knock them off. Last year's victory in the final was anything but easy.
“We went to overtime with them," he said. "We were losing most of the game until the last four minutes.”
While Thursday's tilt will no doubt be a huge obstacle, the fact that the Irish are back there is something they are all proud of.
“We wanted to get back (to Hershey)," Bauhof said. "Just because of the history and everyone just really wanted to get back there. It was a really big goal of ours from the start.”
Myra Owens led Wyomissing in scoring with 16 points while Jamie DeCarlo chipped in 14 for the Spartans.
OTHER DISTRICT 3-AA GIRLS' SEMIFINAL
Camp Hill 53, Delone Catholic 43: At Dallastown, the Squirettes couldn't hold on to a 22-16 halftime lead in a District 3-AA girls' basketball semifinal. Camp Hill used a 37-21 second-half surge to beat Delone for the second time this season. The fourth-seeded Squirettes (18-7) were hurt by an 11-for-24 effort at the foul line. Top-seeded Camp Hill, meanwhile, was 10 for 14 at the charity stripe. Elise Knobloch had 10 points to lead Delone. Camp Hill had three double-digit scorers (Leah Springer, 17; Diamond Bragg, 12; and Passion Bragg, 12).
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.