NEW HOLLAND — Starting a game with a scoring drought is not usually a prescription for success during the PIAA basketball playoffs.
The York Catholic girls' basketball team got away with it once, but the Lady Irish couldn't pull it off again on Tuesday night.
Especially under a lot of pressure.
Taking on District 12 champion Neumann-Goretti, the No. 1 ranked team in Class 3-A in the latest @PaGirlsHoops rankings, the Irish were held scoreless over the first five-plus minutes of the contest. That came on the heels of a scoreless first quarter in Sunday's quarterfinal victory against previously unbeaten Saint Basil Academy.
While York Catholic was able to overcome that start Sunday, there was no such comeback against an exceptionally quick and talented Saints outfit. Goretti scored 16 points before the Irish got on the board on a Kate Bauhof layup with 2 minutes, 16 seconds left in the first quarter. Despite a valiant attempt to overcome a 15-point deficit by halftime, Catholic's season came to an end after a 63-42 loss at Garden Spot High School.
Neumann-Goretti (24-5), the two-time defending PIAA Class 2-A champ, will face District 7 champion Bishop Canevin in the PIAA Class 3-A final at noon Saturday at Hershey's Giant Center.
Remarkable run: While the outcome — as evidenced by the tears pouring out of a some of the players' eyes after the game — was disappointing, the fact that the Irish made it this far is something fairly remarkable.
“There wasn't a lot of people that expected us to get to this game," York Catholic coach Kevin Bankos said. "We're one of the final four teams in the state and we can't lose sight of that. Getting here is quite an accomplishment and we know how hard it is to even get to the next game.”
Getting down early was certainly not part of any game plan that Bankos drew up. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
“We were emphatic about not giving them a 10-0 lead and they made it (16-0)," Bankos said. "Kate (missed) her first layup and they got a couple of (steals) and that's how fast it could happen.”
The Irish were able to rally against Basil, which played a more relaxed half-court defense. That wasn't the case against a Goretti team that applied pressure whenever and where ever it could.
“They just lost to a better team," Bankos said. "(Gorretti) is just so athletic, but I hope that these kids learn what it takes to get to the next level.”
Not giving up hope: While Goretti, which got a team-high 17 points from senior Ashley Jones, motored to an early double-digit lead, its aggressive play defensively resulted in York Catholic reaching the bonus before the end of the first quarter.
With the York-Adams League's top free throw shooting team, and Bauhof, the league's top free throw shooter, Bankos didn't give up hope, even when his team was down 21-9 after a period.
“When I saw six fouls (in the first quarter) I thought we might have a shot at getting it to single digits by halftime," Bankos said. "But then they hit two big 3s.”
The Irish did themselves no favors by missing at least five layups during the contest. Bankos, however, knows that a good bit of that can be attributed to the Saints.
“We have to make our shots," he said. "Now I keep saying 'we' but most of it was 'them.' Most of it is that they're really darn good.”
The Irish were led by Bauhof, their standout guard, who poured in 20 points. The junior tallied 19 of those points in the first half, when she single-handedly gave the Irish a glimmer of a hope.
“She's done that before for us," Bankos joked. "It's not the first time.”
Outlook promising for next season: The good news for the Irish is that their entire starting lineup will return next season after going 23-7 this season and claiming York-Adams Division III and District 3 Class 3-A titles.
Bankos, however, was quick to point out that means very little if his entire team, Bauhof included, doesn't improve over the summer.
"If they can build on their skills over the summer and then come back with Kate and three other kids that can score for us, well I'll like our chances," he said.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.