READING — Kate Bauhof has been showcasing her red-and-blue basketball shoes ever since her York Catholic girls' team claimed the District 3 Class 3-A title at Hershey's Giant Center earlier this month.
Symbolizing fire (left shoe, red) and ice (right shoe, blue), her foot ware was an indicator of the junior standout's play on Sunday afternoon when the Lady Irish faced unbeaten Saint Basil Academy in a PIAA Class 3-A quarterfinal at Santander Arena in Reading.
It also could have easily summarized York Catholic's overall play, as well.
The Irish were held scoreless over the first quarter and Bauhof was scoreless in the first half. At that point, the blue shoe definitely seemed the better gauge for both the Irish and Bauhof, who were both ice cold. Bauhof failed to convert on any of her eight first-half shots.
The second half, however, was a completely different story. Over the final 16 minutes, Bauhof's red shoe was much better barometer for both the Irish and their star player.
The Irish point guard scored her team's first seven points of the second half to help her team cut into a 20-9 halftime deficit. Bauhof's hot hand continued throughout the half. The York Catholic standout finished with a game-high 21 points to lead the Irish to an improbable 40-31 triumph.
York Catholic (23-6) moves to the 3-A semifinals, where they'll face District 12 champion Neumann-Goretti (23-5) Tuesday at a time and location yet to be determined. N-G, the top-ranked team in 3-A according to the latest @PaGirlsHoops rankings, downed District 2 champion Holy Redeemer, 71-49, in another quarterfinal Sunday. Redeemer fell to 23-6.
The win avenged York Catholic's 46-42 loss to Saint Basil in the second round of last year's state playoffs. Saint Basil came into Sunday's game ranked No. 3 in the state in 3-A, while York Catholic was ranked No. 9.
"We didn't want this to be our last game playing together," Bauhof said. "We just have so much fun on and off the court.”
While playing a team as talented as Goretti will be a challenge, so too was the task of taking on a Panther squad that entered at 29-0.
Basil presented tall challenge: Perhaps Bauhof's poor first half could be attributed in large part because of the presence of SBA's 6-foot, 3-inch senior Natalie Kucowski. The Panthers center forced Bauhof to attempt difficult shots from inside the paint early on. The result was a scoreless half for one of the York-Adams League's leading scorers.
“That's something that we're all kind of not used to," Bauhof said of playing against a team with a distinct height advantage. "Having to alter our shots like that was a bit of a game-changer for us, but I think that after the first half we recognized it and took advantage more of what was open.”
Kucowski wasn't only a pest on the defensive side. The Lafayette University recruit scored 11 of her team-high 16 points in the first half.
After the break, it was a different story for Kucowski. While Bauhof attracts a lot of attention with her point-scoring prowess, players such as Katy Rader, who helped put a lid on SBA's center over the final 16 minutes, play an important role as well.
“Katy was one of the MVPs of the game for us," York Catholic coach Kevin Bankos said of Rader, who chipped in four points in the victory. "The way she played inside against (Kucowski) and for her to play that well against that style of kid inside and out shows just what type of player (Katy) is.”
In addition, Bauhof is the type of player who can turn a game around in a hurry. SBA coach Terry Mancini reminded his team to beware of No. 12 (Bauhof) in the second half.
“I told them to watch out for 12," he said. "She can take a game over and she did. That just shows you the caliber of player that she is. Now we could have helped better and we didn't, but she made some shots.”
Neumann-Goretti up next: As a result, the Irish will get a chance to take on a Goretti team that they have had their eyes on over the past three years.
Nemann-Goretti, a Philadelphia powerhouse, won the past two PIAA Class 2-A titles and has been in three straight state finals. Like York Catholic, Neumann-Goretti moved up from 2-A to 3-A after the PIAA realigned from four classes to six classes for basketball.
Bauhof knows that it will be a challenge, but she and her teammates are relishing the opportunity.
“I think we're ready for it," she said. "I mean we're as ready as we're going to be. We're all excited for it. We've been looking forward to playing them forever.”
All-state guard Chyna Nixon, a 5-foot, 9-inch Ole Miss signee, headlines a highly skilled Saints roster.
Note: Tickets for York Catholic's contest Tuesday will be available at the high school starting Monday from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Tickets will also be on sale Tuesday from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. The winner of Tuesday's game will advance to the state finals at noon Saturday at the Giant Center.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.