On Friday night, the Delone Catholic High Squirettes honored the 10th anniversary of their PIAA girls' basketball state championship team from the 2002-2003 season with a victory over Hanover.
Ten years ago, the then-Squirettes defeated Girard, 50-41, to claim the title. Meredith Cox scored a game-high 21 points. The Squirettes finished the season 29-5 and it was the first of three consecutive state titles.
Many of the former players gathered to be honored at halftime and then enjoyed a postgame reception in which head coach Gerry Eckenrode, who also coached the 2002-03 team, addressed alumni, parents and current players.
"It was a very special team," Eckenrode said. "It was a team of basically no stars. It was probably the best defensive team I ahve coached. They weren't the most talented offensively, but defensively they were the best."
One thing that separated that Squirette team from others he has coached was its dedication.
"They paid such attention to detail, which is what I am trying to teach our current team. That was a very special group, a hard working group and an unselfish group," he added.
With a season full of memories, one that stands out to this day for Eckenrode happened after the second game of the season, a loss at Trinity.
"Trinity just moved up to AAA that year and they had a couple of (NCAA) Division I players," Eckenrode recalled. "We went up to their gym and they beat us. I thought we gave a tremendous effort. I went into the locker room and was telling the girls, 'Good try. We can build on this.' And that was when Steph Vial said that what I was saying was a bunch of crap.
"She said, 'That isn't good enough. We are here to win and not just play well. We are here to win basketball games.' That really resonated for me throughout the entire season. That laid the foundation for the rest of the year."
One of the former players in attendance Friday was Krystal Holzer Robinson. She finished the championship game with 16 points.
She is now a nurse manager of a surgery center. She is expecting her first child, a boy. Living in East Berlin, Robinson said she may be interested in getting into coaching, but would just love to play in a women's league.
Robinson also made it very clear her future son will not be named Gerry.
Her favorite memory aside from the championship took place on the way to the game.
"The song 'Landslide' came on the radio," she said. "It is so not tough. It was like a girly song and Coach is yelling at us, and we are just singing this song and it has no toughness in it. He was so mad because he said we weren't preparing and we were singing girly love songs together."
The season as a whole provided a lot of memories for Robinson.
"It was amazing how much we came together as a team," she said. "We were all worried about the freshman coming in and playing and how it would work out, but she was awesome, and from there we all became really good friends on and off that court. We wanted to win and were very aggressive. All around, we played to win as a team. There was no I."
That freshman that the upperclassmen were worried about was Cox.
"I am sure that worry was a little bit of excitement and then a little worried about me taking their spot," she said. "I tell you what, I was excited. I was the lone freshman coming in and they all took me under their wing. I didn't start right away. I had to earn it, but when I did, I did not feel one bit of animosity. We became a family. It meant a lot as a 14-year-old that these girls really accepted me."
Cox, who was a member of the three straight Delone title teams, is now a coach at NCAA Division III Shenandoah University in Virginia.
"My full-time job is director of alumni relations," she said. "On top of that, I coach. I think one thing that really helped at Delone was how much we meshed. I think that is key for any team to be successful. (Shenandoah) was picked 11th in the conference and now we are 5th. We are knocking off the number-three teams and just clicking. I think that is the key, clicking together."
By the end of Friday night, Robinson had summed up the reunion eloquently.
"I can't believe it has been 10 years already," she said. "We are getting old."
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