There is no doubt that games between Delone Catholic and York Catholic are some of the most anticipated on the YAIAA girls' basketball calendar every year, but is that enough to qualify it as a rivalry?
Most rivalries are defined by two teams that fire back and forth, swapping titles or at least ruining one another's chances to claim the throne.
On Tuesday night, Delone Catholic went to York Catholic looking for a sweep of the regular season series. Not just any sweep, but the first since the teams began playing home-away series in the 2008-09 season.
With seven minutes left in the game, the Squirettes looked like they might do it, leading by six. But the Irish fought back and dashed the Squirettes' hopes when Anne Lehr broke a tie, draining a layup with three seconds left in regulation.
Delone Catholic coach Gerry Eckenrode was frustrated, but said he doesn't waste time thinking about regular season sweeps.
"Win or lose, we still could play them potentially one time in counties, one time in districts and one time in states," he said. "You can't get yourself overly concerned about sweeping them."
In the last six seasons, the Irish have swept the Squirettes only twice, but have been dominant in head-to-head matchups with a 14-4 record, including a pair of five-game winning streaks. They've also dominated the larger stage, winning four District 3 Class AA games and two more in the PIAA round.
So Delone doesn't exactly fit the description of York Catholic's rival, but what team does? The Irish haven't lost a district game since Holy Name beat the team in the quarterfinals in 2004, claiming eight straight district titles since.
There were a few reasons for fans of the Squirettes to be optimistic.
First, the team erased a 10-point deficit at the half. Second, the teams have not played so tightly in a long time. The Squirettes won 45-41 in early January.
"We're competitive rivals and we really respect them because they make us better," Delone's Mary Gingrow said. "Every time we play them it gets more competitive and really shows how good the players are."
The last time back-to-back games were decided by less than five was in January of 2009 when York Catholic won the opener, 47-43, and Delone Catholic fired back with a 47-44 victory in the regular season. However, it should be noted that York Catholic won by 11 and 20 in district and state bouts respectively that year.
Crashing the boards
York Catholic started all five seniors, leaving some of its better rebounders, including junior Hannah Laslo, on the bench the first four minutes of the game. That helps to explain how Delone got out to a 28-19 advantage on the boards in the first half (Squirettes freshman Jill Novak had five before Laslo entered the game and seven more after to finish with a game-high 12).
However, the re-entry of the center, Laslo, did not slow the Squirettes' pursuit as they finished ahead 47-28 in the category. Gingrow also had with 10 boards for the Squirettes.
"It was a concern before the game, but Delone is one of the better rebounding teams," York Catholic coach Kevin Bankos said. "Not just one or two kids, they all crash the board well."
Respect thy elders
York Catholic showed respect, not only to its own five seniors -- Amelia York, Cymone Jones, Deanna Chesko, Courtney Demonda and Zaenna Echevarria -- on senior night, but also to those of Delone -- Gingrow, Deanna Laughman and Sarah Wilson.
During pregame, the Irish presented each Squirette senior with a white rose and well wishes before honoring their own seniors. The game's eventual leading scorer, Lehr, said she was thrilled to see the Irish seniors not only start, but lead 4-2 when they broke up the unit with four minutes remaining in the first quarter.
"That's a tradition and I always like when that's held up," she said. "They deserve their time in the limelight because they work so hard. They've been with the program so long, so this is their night."