Following the impressive victory by the Kennard-Dale girls' team over York Suburban on Tuesday, there was one lingering question surrounding K-D's basketball programs — had the boys' and girls' teams ever made the state tournament in the same year?
Among friends, alumni and supporters on hand at West York, no one was quite sure. Each respective team had qualified for states before, but in the same year?
Well, now the school has a definitive answer. Yes, in 2018, after the Lady Rams defeated the Trojans 51-33 in a District 3 Class 4-A consolation contest.
The victory qualifies sixth-seeded K-D (14-11) for the state tournament, and it will now face fifth-seeded Northern Lebanon (19-6) at 5 p.m. Thursday at Cumberland Valley for the fifth-place seed. The boys' team had already qualified for the PIAA playoffs that begin March 9-10. Northern Lebanon won a consolation game over ninth-seeded West Perry (16-9) on Tuesday, 51-38. The loss ended Suburban's season.
A balanced scoring attack propelled the Rams, who jumped out to a 15-3 first-quarter advantage in a contest they never trailed. Sophomore Chandler Swanson made sure of that, connecting on her first three 3-point attempts in the first quarter, when K-D shot holes in the Trojans' zone defense.
"We had prepared for their zone defense, but you still have to make the shots," Rams' coach Bob Rudisill said. "Chandler hitting those early threes was really big ... that got us off to a great start."
A balanced K-D squad finished with three players in double figures (Megan Halczuk, 14 points; Swanson, 13; and Jaedyn McKeon, 10). Lexie Kopko added nine points.
"We feel like everyone on the floor can score and contribute," said Halczuk, who is one of five underclass starters. "It's been a growing process. Last year, we only won seven games, then this year, we beat Eastern, which was a big one for us, then we won the Big Spring holiday tournament, and all those things have given us a lot more confidence."
"At the beginning of the season, our girls weren't sure they could win. Now they know they can compete," he said. "We battled Wyomissing the other night (a 54-48 loss to the No. 3 seed), and we battled against Dallastown in the county playoffs."
Suburban coach Jess Barley came away impressed. Suburban and the Rams had split their regular-season contests.
"They were definitely the better team tonight," she said. "My hat's off to them, they came out right away and hit those threes and executed very well. They were efficient with their offense and deserved to win."
Suburban rallies: After the slow start, in which seventh-seeded Suburban (14-11) missed its first 17 shots, it did manage to cut the deficit to 17-15 with 2:27 remaining in the first half. However, five unanswered points gave the Rams a 22-15 advantage when Cloe Thoericht hit a 3-pointer and McKeon added a bucket in the closing minutes. K-D was 9 of 21 in the first half from the floor, while the Trojans were just 4 of 24.
The two teams traded baskets throughout much of the third quarter before a key sequence late in the period allowed the Rams to increase a 29-24 lead to 34-26 heading into the fourth quarter. Kopko made a basket and free throw and McKeon added a bucket at the buzzer to give the Rams an eight-point lead.
K-D quickly scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to lead 40-26. Suburban never got within single digits again. Senior Ali Reinecker, one of five seniors on the Trojans roster, was the team's leading scorer with 11 points.
"I can't say enough about those five seniors (Reinecker, Briaunna Embrey-Banks, Kennedy McKee, Katherine Mooney and Gianna Batty-Harrison)," Barley said. "They did everything I asked of them and they were part of a lot of wins the last few years. They were a big reason why our program has been successful."
Reach George Hammond at firstname.lastname@example.org.