Delone Catholic's depth helps Squirettes advance to state girls' basketball semifinals

Giana Hoddinott

McSHERRYSTOWN — Experience matters more and more as high school basketball teams advance in the playoffs.

Fortunately for the Delone Catholic girls’ basketball team, experience in big-game situations is something the Squirettes have gained in plentiful proportions over the past three years.

Hosting District 6 champion Tyrone in a PIAA 4-A quarterfinal clash Saturday afternoon, the District 3 champs leaned on some recent experience from more than a month ago to aid their cause. With all-state guard and leading scorer Giana Hoddinott picking up her second foul late in the first quarter, the Delone girls didn’t suffer another letdown.

A similar scenario played out last month in the Squirettes' only loss of the season to district 6-A champ Cumberland Valley. In that setback, the Delone girls were outplayed badly in the second quarter with Hoddinott on the bench.

Against the Golden Eagles, however, the Squirettes used their tremendous depth to not only stay afloat, but actually gain separation in a contest that was tight after the first period. Delone finished on a 15-4 run to close the half and never looked back en route to a 58-48 triumph.

The Squirettes (20-1) move on to Tuesday’s semifinal against District 10 champ Villa Maria, a 29-28 winner over District 7 champ Beaver in overtime. The time and location of Tuesday's game is yet to be determined.

“Tyrone played well,” Delone coach Gerry Eckenrode said. “But I think that we had a little more depth than they had.”

The Squirettes finished with three players — Hoddinott (17 points), Abby Jacoby (13 points) and Makenna Mummert (10 points) — all in double digits in scoring.

“We have multiple players that can score points at any given time,” Eckenrode said. “Our starting five is awful hard to defend because we have so many players that can do so many individual things.”

With Hoddinott on the bench, the Squirettes used pressure defense and defensive rebounding to extend a 15-14 lead after one stanza to eight points by the time Hoddinott made a pair of free throws with 2:44 left in the first half. Five different players scored during an 11-4 run to begin the stanza.

“I wasn’t concerned when Giana got into foul trouble and we had to sit her out,” Eckenrode said. “I thought that Maggie Hughes (nine points) played a really strong game in there.”

Jacoby and Mummert both stepped up to help the cause without Hoddinott on the court, with Delone taking a 36-20 lead into the break.

“Sitting on the bench is something that I’m not really used to,” Hoddinott said. “But my team fought without me and I always like to see that. I was just cheering them on the bench before they put me back in.”

Delone also took advantage of foul trouble that plagued Tyrone's two key post players in Jaida Parker and Kayelin Gibbons. Parker and Gibbons both were whistled for two fouls in the first quarter and were forced to come back in the second quarter during Delone’s run.

The District 6 champs, however, didn’t make the two-plus-hour bus ride to the Hanover area to surrender. Junior point guard Stephanie Ramsey, who was held scoreless in the first half, poured in eight quick points to begin the second half to keep things interesting.

The Golden Eagles (18-4) continued to claw away as they pulled within seven points late in the fourth quarter after Ramsey (16 points) knocked down her fourth 3-pointer of the half with 63 seconds left.

“I’ll give (Ramsey) credit,” Eckenrode said. “She hit some excellent shots. Today she was hot.”

The Squirettes were able to fend off a last-ditch comeback by again proving why they are the York-Adams League’s top free-throw-shooting squad. Delone made five of their final six free throws, and the one miss was negated by an offensive rebound that sealed the victory.

“If it gets into a foul shooting contest, we have excellent foul shooters,” Eckenrode said of the quartet of Jacoby (90.5 percent), Hoddinott (82.3), Mummert (82.2) and Hughes (80.5).

With Saturday’s victory in the fold, the Squirettes will have to get ready for Villa Maria (19-0) in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The contest is set for Central Cambia High in Ebensburg, Cambria County, which is nearly a three-hour bus ride west from McSherrystown. Villa Maria, from Erie, will face a three-hour-plus bus ride.

The Victors have appeared in eight state finals over the past 20 years, including a trio of championships in 2009, 2010 and 2011, the last two of which came against York Catholic. Villa Maria beat Tyrone in early January, 49-26.

While the Delone girls know that Tuesday will be a major challenge, Hoddinott says her team is taking nothing for granted, especially after losing the opportunity in 2020 to defend their 2019 PIAA 3-A title.

“A year ago we were shut down (after the quarterfinal round because of the COVID-19 pandemic) so we never know what’s going to happen,” she said. “It’s crazy, but if something happens and one of my teammates gets exposed we could get shut down again. So right now we’re just going to take it day-by-day and prepare for (Villa Maria).”

Parker, who eclipsed the 1,000-career-point plateau with a basket in the third quarter, tied Ramsey for team-high honors in the scoring with 16 points, while Gibbons finished with 14.

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