In recent memory, there's always seemed to be at least one standout for the powerhouse York Catholic girls' basketball program.
Sometimes, there were even two or three stars for the Irish during their annual state playoff runs.
That includes NCAA Division I players such as Kady Schrann, Kate Bauhof and Amanda Weaver, among many others, leading Kevin Bankos’ standout teams.
This year, however, the York Catholic roster does not include any D-I caliber players. In fact, only one player (Katy Rader at 10.6 points per game) averages in double digits.
So, instead of leaning heavily on a superstar or two to win games, the Irish are doing it with role players and a team-first mentality.
The result has been another successful York Catholic season, with the Irish the last York County team left standing in PIAA competition.
That is somewhat surprising, even for a hugely-successful coach such as Bankos.
“Last year I said that I didn’t think that we’d get there (to the state Class 2-A quarterfinals),” Bankos said. “And guess what? We’re back again.”
Intangibles the key: Bankos believes the success of this season's Irish team (20-7) is because of intangible factors, such as team chemistry. Bankos says his players put in the hard work necessary for success, as well as accepting whatever roles that Bankos and his staff have designated for each player.
Bankos loves the fact that everyone on the roster knows their particular jobs and that they don’t try to do "too much." He also likes that there hasn’t been any disharmony, which can sometimes arise on even the best of teams.
“They’re a really close-knit group,” Bankos said. “Probably one of the closest ones that we’ve had. They all like each other and want to be around each other. There’s no real drama.”
History of success: The York Catholic girls also understand history. They know that the program has made it to the second round of the state playoffs in each of Bankos’ 13 seasons at the helm. That includes three state title teams. So maybe it shouldn’t be a shocker to see another York Catholic team making a run at the state crown.
That tradition certainly hasn't been lost on Gina Citrone, who has experienced three previous state runs as an underclassman.
“I’m not too surprised,” Citrone said. “Because I know how hard we work.”
Favorable draw: It certainly hasn’t hurt that the District 3 runner-up Irish have enjoyed a favorable draw through the first two rounds, which includes an 46-27 win vs. District 12 champion Bishop McDevitt (8-15) as well as a 42-25 triumph over District 2 champ Holy Cross (17-9). Neither team was laced with a roster that included one or multiple D-I recruits.
“We had some really good match-ups for us,” Bankos said. “Teams that we could match up well with. And we were able to run a lot of our stuff and (Tuesday vs. Holy Cross) our kids really executed our game plan well.”
Citrone, who scored 10 points in the victory over Holy Cross, echoed that sentiment.
“That really was (one of our best games),” she said. “We really communicated well and I think that our defense really won that game for us. We just clicked as a team and everyone played as they were supposed to.”
For a player such as Citrone, getting into the month of March seems to kick the team into another gear.
“This is where York Catholic is supposed to be,” she said. “This is where we’re known to be. And I know that I’m just ready when we play in states. It’s kind of like a switch (turns on).”
Bellwood Antis up next: Come Friday, when York Catholic takes on District 6 champ Bellwood Antis (24-3), the Irish will need to continue to play solidly to have a shot at making it to the state semifinals.
The defending state 2-A champion Blue Devils are led by Notre Dame recruit Alli Campbell, a 6-foot-1 point guard, who has helped BA win 21 of its past 22 games.
In Tuesday's second-round 47-45 win over District 4 champion Mount Carmel, a team with just a 16-11 record, BA did show some vulnerability.
The York Catholic-Bellwood Antis contest is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Mifflin County High School in Lewistown.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.