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Delone Catholic's first appeal is denied, but school plans to keep fighting PIAA ruling

The Delone Catholic Squiretts celebrate after defeating Trinity 44-22 in the District 3 Class 3-A girls' basketball final on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. Unless the school wins a final appeal, the Squirettes will have to play in Class 4-A next season.
John A. Pavoncello photo
  • Delone Catholic girls' basketball's appeal was denied by the PIAA.
  • The team is scheduled to be moved up to 4-A class.
  • Delone Catholic plans to file a second appeal to the PIAA executive board.

The Delone Catholic High School girls’ basketball program was denied its chance to repeat as the 3-A state champion by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest ruling by the PIAA, however, might mean the end of the Squirettes' tenure in the 3-A classification.

Delone Catholic athletic director Tim Bonitz confirmed on Tuesday that the team’s appeal to the PIAA to remain in Class 3-A was denied. Delone plans to file a second appeal, and if that appeal is also denied, the team will be forced to play in 4-A next season. Bonitz did not elaborate on the reason for the PIAA's decision.

PIAA chief operating officer Mark Byers said with Delone Catholic's appeal process still ongoing that he could not comment on the reason why the appeal was denied, other than "that it has been denied based on the information provided."

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The Squirettes were one of 15 teams across the state that were selected by the PIAA to be reclassified under the organization's competitive-balance rule. Teams that accrued six success points and were deemed to have one or more transfer players were chosen to move up by the PIAA. Seven schools, including Delone Catholic, opted to appeal their reclassifications.

Success points are gained by reaching various levels of postseason play. A berth in the state playoffs equals one point, a trip to the state quarterfinals is worth two points, a state semifinal berth gains teams three points and a state title equals four points. 

Delone Catholic received four points because it won the 2019 3-A title and reached the 2020 quarterfinals before the tournament was canceled. 

The issue for the Squirettes was the ruling that they had three transfers by the PIAA’s calculation. Bonitz and Delone Catholic girls’ basketball coach Gerry Eckenrode said none of the three players should be considered transfers.

Delone Catholic High to appeal PIAA's decision to move up girls' basketball program

Two of the players in question have been enrolled in the school, but didn’t join the team until their sophomore seasons, according to Eckenrode. The third player did transfer after her freshman year began, but both Bonitz and Eckenrode claim she was in the school system from third grade until eighth grade before her family moved out of state. The girl in question then returned to Delone Catholic because of a family medical issue.

The PIAA considers players who change schools after the allowed period between the end of their eighth-grade and ninth-grade years to be transfers.

“I don’t think we received any type of competitive advantage in this two-year cycle to warrant us being bumped up to play bigger schools,” Bonitz said last week. “We understand the intent of the rule, but we just feel like it’s not being applied to our situation correctly.”

Bonitz said that they plan to file a second appeal to the PIAA executive board. Last week, Bonitz estimated that the final decision on classifications would be made by the end of May.

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