HERSHEY -- Twice before, York Catholic's Zaenna Echevarria and Morgan Klunk saw Delone Catholic nearly pull off comebacks against them. When the YAIAA Division IV rivals met in Thursday night's District 3 Class AA girls' basketball championship at Giant Center, roles quickly reversed -- if just for a few minutes.
Shots couldn't be put up, let alone fall. Three turnovers came before the Fighting Irish could register any attempts. The 56-38 victory that gave York Catholic (25-2) its eighth straight district title seemed out of reach early.
Delone (19-7), a foe for three straight of these championship games, jumped out to a 9-3 lead. Irish coach Kevin Bankos had called timeout, banging home the idea that "standing around, passing the ball 30 feet from the basket" wasn't enough.
"At times we forget we have a pretty good big player," said Bankos, referring to 6-foot-1 sophomore post Hannah Laslo, "and at times, she kind of hides."
Bankos and his staff encouraged Laslo, who scored 20 points in the semifinals, to position herself higher in the post. They wanted to get her the ball.
"She has developed so much since the beginning of the year," Bankos said. "It's just a huge weapon to have."
So many weapons. Klunk, with another District 3 gold medal hanging from her neck, said all those options are what make this York Catholic team different.
The Irish's leading scorer this season, Klunk had 13 points Thursday. Laslo had eight. But they also had Echevarria, who scored a game-high 14 points.
It was Echevarria who easily drained a 3-pointer from the left wing as York Catholic began to right the ship. She said she knew it was good as it left her fingertips. The ball touched only net on its way through the hoop, the first three points in a 15-2 run that gave York Catholic control the rest of the night.
"I think we were just nervous at first," Echevarria said. "Some of us hadn't been on this court. Once we got back into that groove, then we started to calm down and relax."
They stopped standing around, as Bankos asked. Laslo established herself inside, following Echevarria's run-starting 3 with a short turnaround shot inside. The Irish rebounded to tie the score after the first quarter and took their first lead on a Marissa Ressler basket 51 seconds into the second period. The lead was theirs for good. A steal quickly followed Ressler's go-ahead score, and the sophomore off the bench added a 3 as part of her 10-point night.
The York Catholic lead grew to double digits. A team that committed 22 turnovers, Squirettes coach Gerry Eckenrode could only regret missed opportunities. Delone shot 15-of-48 from the floor.
"In the second quarter we just went dry," Eckenrode said of that 2-of-12 stretch. "You have to score points all throughout the game, and we didn't do it. The second quarter was the difference in the game."
However, Echevarria and Klunk -- the two who command the backcourt with junior Deanna Chesko -- knew all too well not to get comfortable with a 27-15 halftime lead.
When these teams met in early February at Delone, the Irish jumped out to an early lead near double digits. They had to hold off the Squirettes then to clinch the YAIAA Division IV title and needed a similar late stand earlier in the season at home. Delone also came back early and late in its overtime district semifinal win against Oley Valley.
"The idea was to bury them at the half," Klunk said. "We knew they're notorious for coming back from being down 10."
On Thursday, Delone cut the Irish lead to seven on sophomore Maddie Comly's 3 but never got closer. That early lead, which was fueled by Bethany Ball's jump shooting, was gone. Ball finished with 13 points, and Comly had 11, but the Irish had too many capable players.
Too many shooters, such as Klunk and Echevarria. Their series of baskets pushed the lead back to 12.
Too good of a presence inside. Laslo didn't register her first rebound until late in the third, but it was a putback that erased any comeback thoughts.
But too many district titles?
"It's still a new feeling," Echevarria said. "It's exciting, and I just love it."
DELONE CATHOLIC (38)
Maddie Comly 3 4-4 11, Gingrow 2 0-0 5, Ugarte 0 0-0 0, Laughman 0 0-0 0, Thomas 0 0-0 0, Sponseller 1 1-2 3, Shanaghan 0 0-0 0, Wilson 0 0-0 0, Bethany Ball 6 0-0 13, Neiderer 0 0-0 0, Mall 1 0-0 2, Shipley 2 0-0 4, Becker 0 0-0 0, Durbin 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15 5-6 38.
YORK CATHOLIC (56)
Lehr 0 0-0 0, York 0 0-0 0, McNamara 0 0-0 0, Jones 0 0-0 0, Chesko 3 2-4 8, Marissa Ressler 3 3-5 10, Carroll 1 0-0 3, Morgan Klunk 3 5-7 13, Demonda 0 0-0 0, Salter 0 0-0 0, Zaenna Echevarria 6 0-0 14, Keffer 0 0-0 0, Laslo 4 0-0 8. Totals: 20 10-16 56.
Delone Catholic 11 4 12 11 -- 38
York Catholic11 16 15 14 -- 56
3-point goals: Delone Catholic 3 (Comly, Gingrow, Ball), York Catholic 6 (Echevarria 2, Klunk 2, Carroll, Ressler)