HERSHEY — It's pretty much expected that when teams get to the second round of the PIAA girls' basketball playoffs, they'll face a team loaded with talent.
That's exactly what District 3 champion York Catholic was prepared for Thursday night when it battled Pine Grove in a PIAA Class 3-A contest at Milton Hershey High School.
Fortunately for the Irish — and unfortunately for the District 11 champion Cardinals — Pine Grove was forced to play without the services of two starters. Rachel Edge, who is Pine Grove's leading scorer at more than 12 points a game, and Faith Shiffer were both in Las Vegas with their travel club soccer team.
Like any good team would, York Catholic took advantage. Irish standout Kate Bauhof poured in 10 of her game-high 28 points in the first quarter to help her team take an early lead it would never relinquish. When the final horn sounded, York Catholic was able to enjoy a surprisingly comfortable 60-46 triumph
The Irish (22-6) will now face the winner of Friday night's clash between Dunmore and Saint Basil in the quarterfinals on Sunday at a time and location to be determined.
“Kudos to the rest of the kids on their team," York Catholic coach Kevin Bankos said. "We talk to our team all the time about being a great teammate and (missing two starters) is just a tough thing to overcome. You play with those kids all year long and that was certainly a different challenge for them.”
Edge, a junior, has tallied more than 105 career goals for Pine Grove's soccer team, while Shiffer, a standout soccer player in her own right, is best knows as the kicker on Pine Grove's football team.
The challenge of playing without those two was likely equal to the one of defending Bauhof. The guard slashed to the hoop for lay-ins and drained 3-pointers throughout the contest.
Bauhof's output wasn't as critical Thursday. The Irish also found a pair of secondary threats to help out. Jania Wright chipped in 12 points while Abby Pilkey, who was mired in foul trouble early, still finished with 11.
Bankos, however, sounded more impressed with the effort he saw from short-handed Pine Grove, which finished 20-7. Pine Grove was led by Jen Kaufman's 13 points.
“The girls they had on the court played hard on every play," he said. "And that's exactly what we told our kids they'd do before the game. They wouldn't quit. And we told them that at halftime.”
To prove Bankos' point, his team's 14-point lead at the break was quickly cut in half (34-27) midway through the third period. But with a player the caliber of Bauhof of his side, the Irish never wilted. Instead they responded to stretch the lead to 41-29. Bauhof poured it on again in the fourth period with 10 more points, helping York Catholic stretch the lead to 60-40 with three minutes left.
Now the Irish will prepare for a team they've grown accustomed to over the past 10 years. Bankos' teams have squared off with both Saint Basil (27-0) and Dunmore (23-1) in PIAA play at the 2-A level a handful of times with mixed success.
Bankos knows his squad is in for a big challenge either way.
“We're back somewhat into the trend of teams that we're used to seeing," he said. "They're both loaded and they're both good. They're both athletic, can play defense and can run.”
One advantage that the Irish coach will have is that he can personally scout Friday's contest. Many of the PIAA games involving District 2 schools (Scranton area) had games moved to Friday because of the snowstorm this week. Originally the quarterfinals were to be held Saturday, but with teams playing Friday, those contests are expected to be played Sunday to prevent teams from playing on back-to-back nights.
Cardinal O'Hara 55, Central York 35: At Reading, the Panthers' season ended with a PIAA Class 6-A second-round loss to a powerhouse Cardinal O'Hara team. Central York, which came into the game ranked No. 9 in the @PaGirlsHoops 6-A state rankings, finished 25-5. District 12 champion O'Hara, which came into the game ranked No. 2 in 6-A in the same poll, improved to 24-3. O'Hara has a number of NCAA Division I recruits. Emma Saxton had 10 points for Central, while Sarah Sepic added nine and Nikson Valencik scored eight. Teirra Preston had 11 rebounds. The Panthers finished fourth in the District 3 playoffs and earned the York-Adams League playoff and York-Adams Division I crowns.
West Shamokin 59, Delone Catholic 47: At Hollidaysburg High School, the Squirettes' season came to an end with a PIAA Class 3-A second-round setback against West Shamokin. Senior Elise Knobloch scored 15 points for Delone, which finished second in District 3 and concluded its season at 20-8. District 6 champion West Shamokin moved to 26-2.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.