The Delone Catholic High girls' basketball team will not have the chance to defend its PIAA Class 3-A title.
During a Zoom meeting Wednesday, the PIAA board of directors upheld the organization's previous decision to reclassify the Squirettes as a 4-A team going forward because of the PIAA competitive-balance rule.
The appeal was Delone Catholic's second-and-final chance to change the decision and was upheld by a 24-6 vote by the board.
Delone Catholic was one of 15 teams selected by the PIAA to be reclassified before next season. The competitive-balance rule moves teams up that have earned six success points and have at least one transfer player. Seven teams ultimately appealed their reclassification.
Under the competitive-balance rule, the Squirettes received four success points for their state title appearance in 2019 and two for reaching the quarterfinals of the 2020 tournament before it was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Delone Catholic originally was found to have three transfers by the PIAA, but the school argued that the three players in question did not create a competitive advantage over its opponents.
Delone athletic director Tim Bonitz said two of the players were enrolled in the school, but didn't play basketball, as freshmen. The third player did transfer into Delone during her freshman year, but Bonitz said it was because of a family medical issue and she was a member of the junior varsity team this past season.
PIAA executive director Robert Lombardi said that the organization does not consider the quality of the player in question or what level of basketball they played at the school because of the ability for some players to play both varsity and junior varsity.
Lombardi didn't vote on Wednesday's appeals, but did listen in and said the appeal presentations were not compelling. Associate executive director Melissa Mertz added that the board chose to vote in line with previous decisions regarding transfers, regardless of the intent of the transfer.
"They did discuss that and they discussed that they have had those conversations before and that what they have always decided was a transfer is a transfer is a transfer," Mertz said. "That was what they have upheld previously and they did not feel they should go out on a limb on that."
Bonitz said that the school hoped that on the second appeal the board of directors would take into consideration the reasons for the player's transfer and her previous time in the local Catholic school system, and not just take a black-and-white approach as to whether or not the transfer happened after the approved window between the eighth- and ninth-grade seasons.
“The way the rule is written, we understand,” Bonitz said. “Obviously we respect what they decided, but we're disappointed with how they decided. We figured there might be some of that human element because this is a very unique situation. We wish they would have ruled differently, but all we can do is move on.”
Delone Catholic was 26-1 this past season and won the York-Adams Division III and District 3 3-A crown. The Squirettes will be in the 4-A class for a two-year cycle and if they don't achieve three success points or have one transfer over that period, they will be able to move back down in class.
Head coach Gerry Eckenrode said previously that, despite the school's small size, he expected that the team would still be very competitive in the 4-A classification. Delone was sophomore-dominated team this past season and will return the bulk of its contributing players next season — with the glaring exception of all-state senior Brooke Lawyer.
Eckenrode has led Delone to four state championships over the last two decades.
The team that Delone beat in the 2019 state finals, the Dunmore girls, also lost its appeal and will also move up to 4-A next season. That vote was 23-6.
The Lincoln Park boys and Trinity boys also lost their second appeals by wide margins, receiving 24 negative votes. Both of those teams will also move up to 4-A.
Reach Rob Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org.