It was no stretch to think the York Catholic girls’ basketball team would again make a long postseason run during the 2017-18 season.
After all, it's become expected that the Irish will annually play deep into the District 3 and PIAA playoffs.
That is pretty much what has happened during every one of head coach Kevin Bankos’ 13-plus seasons at the helm.
Last year’s run to the PIAA Class 3-A state quarterfinals, however, was certainly out of the norm. The York Catholic girls somehow found a way to sustain the program’s success even without all-state guard and 1,000-point career scorer Kate Bauhof playing a single minute for the Irish.
After an unusually slow start, the Irish rebounded to finish 15-14 overall and 11-1 in York-Adams Division III. The Irish shared the D-III title with parochial rival Delone Catholic.
Depth a key for Irish: Now, even after losing a pair of NCAA Division I recruits in Bauhof (St. Francis, New York) and Jania Wright (Coppin State) to graduation, it would be no shock to find the YC girls playing deep into March again this season. That’s because the Irish, according to Bankos, have not been built around one or two players in his tenure.
The Irish have had their fair share of stars over the years — Kady Schrann, Bauhof, Amanda Weaver and Kelly Rhein, just to name a few — the Irish have remained consistently successful when those players have moved on to college.
“The one thing we’ve promoted with the program over the years is opportunity,” Bankos said. “We tell the kids that the best thing in life is when you are presented with opportunity. Identifying it and taking advantage of it is the hardest part, but we’ve had a tremendous amount of opportunity the past 13 years.”
Bankos will have some key returners back this year in seniors Gina Citrone and Katy Rader, as well as new additions in juniors Gabrielle Coley, a transfer from Dover, and Ellie Jones, a transfer from Dallastown.
A few other senior role players, such as the Reed twins, who are both recovering from ACL injuries, should provide additional depth for the Irish.
“There’s no reasons that these kids can’t (succeed),” Bankos said. “Not all of the kids played for our AAU system, but from what I could tell they were all playing competitive, and they should be ready to go.”
Moving down to 2-A: This year’s postseason run, however, may offer a somewhat easier path than usual for Bankos' squad, because the Irish dropped down to Class 2-A level. Rivals Delone and Trinity are at the 3-A level, as is reigning 2-A champion Camp Hill, which moved up to 3-A this season.
With only eight District 3 teams in 2-A, the Irish will likely have to battle teams like Steel-High, Upper Dauphin and Linden Hall, which moved up from 1-A this year, in the four-team draw. Linden Hall pushed perennial 1-A heavyweight Lebanon Catholic in the district final last year.
Here's a look around the York-Adams League heading into the 2018-2019 girls' basketball season:
Division I; The general sentiment around the league is that the division is Dallastown’s for the taking.
The Wildcats (20-10, 10-2) return both of their big post threats in junior Aniya Matthews and St. Francis recruit Sam Miller. Throw in a pair of guards with experience in Brielle Berry and Lily Jamison, and it’s easy to see why Dallastown is the favorite.
That isn’t to say that things will be a cakewalk for head coach Jay Rexroth, who will have to figure out a way to fill the void left by the graduation of 1,000-point scorer Julia Sutton. The thinking last year was that Sabria Royal, who impressed as a freshman before suffering an ACL injury last year, would be the prime candidate to take over, but Royal has apparently transferred out of the district.
Central York (22-6, 10-2), the defending Y-A champion, will have to defend its title without most of the core group that won back-to-back titles. The only returning starter that coach Scott Wisner can summon this year is senior Katie Fabbri. The Panthers, however, will look to win games with their defense, which surrendered just 35.9 points per game last year.
Spring Grove (16-11, 8-4) was a bit off the radar entering last year, but after qualifying for the PIAA Class 5-A playoffs in 2018, that will no longer be the case. While the Rockets graduated no one from last year’s squad, that doesn’t mean nothing was lost. Head coach Holly Strait stepped down after the season. Replacing Strait is former York High boys’ basketball coach Troy Sowers, who is highly regarded after leading the Bearcats to many successful seasons in his tenure.
South Western (11-11, 5-7) also has a nice core returning, including Virginia Tech recruit Taylor Geiman, Ali St. Rose and Maddy McMaster.
New Oxford (9-13, 5-7) suffered through some growing pains during coach Mike Englar’s first season, but the Colonials return a number of players back for his second campaign.
Red Lion (8-14, 4-8) may not have had the type of success last season that York-area fans have grown accustomed to, but the Lions are hoping to return to glory under new/old coach Don Dimoff. After spending the past two years coaching in the college ranks as an assistant at Millersville University, Dimoff returns to a Red Lion program that he helped turn into a perennial contender over the past two decades.
York High (0-21, 0-14) didn’t have much success in 2018, but with new coach Kevin Glover at the helm, the Bearcats are hoping to pull off a few surprises.
Division II: Susquehannock (23-7, 12-2) looks to again be the class of Division II this year.
With returning starters in St. Joe’s recruit Jaden Walker and senior guard Jayla Galbreath back, head coach Dave Schreiner is excited about his team’s prospects.
While Walker and Galbreath will get most of the attention, Schreiner is eager to see the continued development of sophomore guard Kelsey Gemmill, who will look to fill in for the loss of guard Taylor Tannura to graduation. The Warriors will also have to find a way to overcome the loss of forward Anna Mahon, who was a presence inside and on the perimeter.
Dover (13-11, 9-5) had a roller-coaster campaign a year ago. Former head coach Kevin Glover was placed on leave following an investigation and eventual arrest of the program’s junior varsity coach last December. Without Glover, the Dover girls played under interim coach Tyler Smith, who led the team to the District 3 playoffs.
While the program hopes to gain a measure of stability under new coach Nick Staub — the school’s sixth head coach in the past six years — the loss of standout Rajah Fink, a first-team all-state player, to graduation leaves a huge void. Guards Ashley Goebeler and Alaina Reaver, who missed much of last season because of an injury, are back.
Kennard-Dale (15-13, 8-6) figures to provide the Warriors with their biggest challenge in the division. The Rams not only qualified for the Y-A playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade, the K-D girls finished sixth in the District 3 4-A playoffs to earn a state berth. An upset of District 4 champ Mifflinburg sent the Rams to the second round of the PIAA draw for the first time ever.
The entire starting cast from that squad is back, including standouts Megan Halczuk, Lexie Kopko, Chandler Swanson and Jaedyn McKeon. The Rams, however, will have to adapt to a new head coach after Bob Rudisill retired. Aaron Eaton, a former K-D boys' standout in the 1990s, takes over with most of Rudisill’s staff still intact.
West York (13-10, 8-6) just missed out on a league playoff berth last season. Head coach James Kunkle is hoping to build off a successful first season with the Bulldogs, who will have to replace seniors Paige Weekly and Angie Hawkins. Kunkle, however, is high on his incoming freshman class, as well as juniors Alyssa Zorbaugh, Makennah Hoffman and Alayna Harris.
Eastern York (11-12, 7-7) showed signs of promise a season ago — including victories over Susquehannock, Dover, West York and York Catholic — but the Golden Knights were bounced out of the district playoffs in the first round by York Suburban. While standout Hannah Myers will be missed, head coach Brad Weaver is optimistic about his talent and depth.
York Suburban (14-11, 7-7) fell a game shy of making the state tournament under veteran coach Jess Barley a season ago. Barley will rely on a group of sophomores and juniors in an effort to remain competitive in the division.
Gettysburg (9-12, 5-9) will have to fill the void left by leading scorer Alana Bortner, but the Warriors will still have the Proctor twins (Cheynne and Madison) to rely on.
Northeastern (1-21, 0-14) has nowhere to go but up after posting just one victory a year ago. Head coach Chuck Maxfield welcomes back nearly his entire team, and he's eager to see improvement from his crew.
Division III: It seems like it’s the same question every year for Delone Catholic (21-6, 11-1) — will this be the year that they get the best of their parochial rival York Catholic?
The Irish won two of three contests vs. Delone a season ago, including the regular-season finale that ensured a tie for the Division III title. The other YC victory came in the District 3 3-A semifinals.
Head coach Gerry Eckenrode’s program should have enough talent to accomplish their goals — division title, league title and a district title. Leading scorers Brooke Lawyer and Bradi Zumbrum are both back, as well as Riley Vingsen and Colleen Anderson. However, Maddie Clabaugh, the Division III Player of the Year in girls’ volleyball this fall, decided to forego basketball in favor of focusing entirely on volleyball.
Delone will also begin to see the fruits from an eighth-grade squad that won a state parochial title last year. While not all of the freshmen will play varsity, and there isn’t a great deal of size in the class either, Eckenrode pointed out that they collectively have a strength in ball-handling skills.
Bermudian Springs (9-13, 7-5) returns a young core that includes leaders Skylar West and Emily Shearer, who missed the last half of the season because of an injury.
Hanover (15-8, 6-6) finished with an impressive record overall, but the Nighthawks will look to draw much closer to heavyweights York Catholic and Delone Catholic. The Hawkettes lost to those two teams by an average of nearly 44 points per game last year. Coach Denny Garman will also need to figure out ways to get more production from his young squad after the loss of leading scorer Avery Martz to graduation.
Littlestown (9-13, 4-8) returns three key players from last year’s squad in Ava Collins, Grace Midkiff and Molly Watkins.
Fairfield (4-13, 2-10) and Biglerville (1-18, 1-11) both had new coaches last season. They will both look for more success in their second seasons.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org