Delone Catholic girls' basketball team confident headed into first PIAA 4-A contest

ROB ROSE
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Delone Catholic's Abigael Vingsen is a member of the Squirettes talented and experienced junior class.
  • Delone Catholic won the District 3 4-A title.
  • The Squirettes beat three-time defending District 3 champion Lancaster Catholic.
  • Delone Catholic won the state 3-A tournament in 2019, the last year it was completed.

New classification for Delone Catholic this season? No problem.

The Squirettes were forced to move up from Class 3-A to Class 4-A last May because of the PIAA’s competitive-balance rule, but that hasn’t prevented them from another elite postseason performance.

Delone (19-1) cruised to a District 3 4-A title in its first season in the classification as the No. 1 seed, collecting double-digit winning margins in all of the games. Headed into the PIAA championship tournament, Delone coach Gerry Eckenrode doesn’t see any reason why his team wouldn’t feel as if it’s talented enough to compete for another state title, to match the PIAA 3-A crown it won in 2019.

Delone Catholic Head Coach Gerry Eckenrode during girls' basketball action at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Cumberland Valley would win the game 65-42. Dawn J. Sagert photo

“My kids are confident. I don’t care who we play, my kids are confident when they go into a game,” Eckenrode said. “Going up a classification is not a big deal to them. I don’t see much of a difference besides there are a lot more good 4-A teams than there are 3-A teams.”

The confidence the Squirettes possess comes from the team’s recent dominant postseason run, which is a big reason why they got forced up in class. The Squirettes won the 3-A state title in 2019, the 2020 District 3 3-A championship and were in the state 3-A quarterfinals when the 2020 tournament was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Junior Giana Hoddinott — winner of consecutive York-Adams Division III Player of the Year awards — started the state championship game in 2019. Fellow juniors Makenna Mummert, Abby Jacoby, Abigail Vingsen and Maggie Hughes have also played key roles in past postseasons.

Adjusting to new foes: The one major adjustment Eckenrode said the team has had to make since moving to 4-A is the preparation required before games.

With similar opponents in District 3, such as 2021 3-A champion Trinity and rival York Catholic, Delone knew who its potential opponents would be and how to get ready to beat them.

Delone Catholic's Makenna Mummert, left, works to get around Cumberland Valley's Abbie Miller during girls' basketball action at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Cumberland Valley would win the game 65-42. Dawn J. Sagert photo

In a new classification with a fresh group of schools, Eckenrode said the pregame plans take more time. The Squirettes’ coach added his plan for Saturday's quarterfinal opponent, District 6 champion Tyrone (18-3), is done and he has begun looking at both teams the Squirettes could face in the semifinals with a short turnaround on Tuesday.

“I think they have adjusted well,” Eckenrode said. “They know they’re going to play different teams now and they do fine with it.”

Eckenrode added that he believed Trinity could have competed in 4-A this season. With a 17-point win vs. the district 3-A champion Shamrocks, a 16-point victory over District 3 4-A No. 4 seed Berks Catholic and a win over three-time defending district 4-A champion Lancaster Catholic, the Squirettes have faith they can hang with any team they play. The team's only loss this year came at 6-A District 3 champ Cumberland Valley.

Delone Catholic's Giana Hoddinott aims for the basket as Cumberland Valley defends during girls' basketball action at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Cumberland Valley would win the game 65-42. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Eckenrode said the Delone Catholic players don’t talk about using their plethora of postseason performances as motivation, but headed into their first run for a state title in 4-A, it's obvious that the players' belief in themselves has not wavered.

“My kids’ confidence level was pretty high anyway,” Eckenrode said. “Obviously it doesn’t hurt, but we went into those games with the expectation that we were going to win. So it’s just a matter of going out and playing well.”

Delone's quarterfinal contest vs. Tyrone is set for 1 p.m. Saturday on the Squriettes' home floor in McSherrystown.

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.