York Catholic boys make 'amazing comeback' to advance to District 3 basketball title game

  • York Catholic beat Steel-High 73-68 in overtime on Wednesday in boys' basketball.
  • The Irish stormed back from a 20-point hole midway through the fourth period.
  • The victory advanced the Irish to the District 3 Class 2-A title game on Monday.
  • Preston Boeckel and Luke Forjan scored 17 points each to lead York Catholic.
Dustin Boeckel

In a game of wild ebbs and flows, the final ebb definitely flowed toward the York Catholic boys' basketball team.

Actually, it was more like a tidal wave, and it eventually washed away Steel-High's season.

The Fighting Irish earned a remarkable 73-68 overtime victory at No. 1 seed Steel-High on Wednesday night in a District 3 Class 2-A semifinal contest.

That victory clinched a state playoff berth for the Fighting Irish and advanced them to the district championship contest vs. Millersburg at 6:15 p.m. Monday at Hershey's Giant Center.

That, however, is just part of the story.

The comeback: York Catholic rallied from a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit (61-41) to force the OT before outscoring the Rollers 8-3 in the OT.

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The Irish entered the fourth quarter trailing 42-29. Steel-High extended that lead to 20 points midway through the final period and started taking out its starters with under three minutes left. That's when York Catholic started its comeback with a 15-2 run. Steel-High reinserted its starters, but by then, momentum was squarely on York Catholic's side. Junior Preston Boeckel, the son of Irish head coach Dustin Boeckel, eventually made a 3-pointer with six seconds left to force the OT. York Catholic finished with a 36-23 scoring advantage over the final eight minutes.

Coach had never witnessed anything like it: It was the kind of comeback that even Dustin Boeckel, a veteran coach and former player, had never witnessed.

"Never ... not as a coach, player or spectator. It was an amazing comeback, almost surreal. I am so happy for our players and our school. They really believed they could do it and they did. Post game they were happy and praising each other with pride."   

Irish standouts: Preston Boeckel and freshman Luke Forjan each finished with 17 points, while senior Dylan Durbin (11) and freshman John Forjan (10) also reached double digits.

Steel-High opened the game with a 16-4 first-quarter surge, only to see York Catholic respond with a 15-8 run of its own in the second quarter to close the deficit to 24-19 at halftime.

The Rollers, however, responded with an 18-10 spurt of their own to take the 13-point lead into the final period, setting up the dramatic climax.

Attitude a key: Coach Boeckel said the team's attitude was key to the big rally.

"We were going to keep fighting one possession at a time," he said. "Get a stop, get a good shot. Once a few of shots started going in and we gained momentum, the players kept working hard for each other and believed we could do it."

Avenging earlier blowout: The loss avenged York Catholic's 80-41 home loss to Steel-High on Dec. 23. 

How did York Catholic achieve such a dramatic turnaround?

"Defensively we were more prepared to stop their transition offense and not give up easy shots and our rebounding effort was much better," coach Boeckel said. "Offensively, we were more deliberate. Early in the game, and maybe it was nerves, we were probably too deliberate. But our plan was to work the clock, get touches and move well without the ball to get the shot we want. They did a good job sticking to the plan, but it really came down to making shots and getting stops that fourth quarter."

Layoff may have helped: An 18-day layoff since their last game may have helped the Irish in preparation for the Rollers.

"Eighteen days allowed me to learn a lot about Steel High, for sure," Dustin Boeckel said. "Their style, their plays, how they respond to occurrences throughout the game. We had a plan, and to our players credit, they stuck to it, but it was really effort and the ball going in the basket, especially that fourth quarter, that made the difference."

Making giant strides: The Irish head coach believes his young team has made some giant strides since early in the season.

"Play hard and get better is what we talked about most of this season," he said. "We schedule good teams to measure where we are keep to keep preparing us — York Suburban, Steelton, Trinity, Camp Hill, Lancaster Catholic and Berks (Catholic). I have mostly always been pleased with our effort, and we have improved in our play, but most noticeably we have gotten better as a team. The players believe in each other more, there is enthusiasm and effort for each other, and it's pretty awesome to witness."

Headed to title game: No. 4 seed York Catholic will take an 11-12 record into Monday's title contest vs. No. 2 Millersburg (18-6).

Steel-High's season ends at 13-10. 

Millersburg punched its ticket to the title game with a 65-58 victory over No. 3 Antietam (12-11).

"We will do our best to prepare the next few days and come with the same mentality as we do every other game — play as hard as we can, play for each other, and see what happens."

Reach Steve Heiser at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.