Delone outsizes opponents on court, scoreboard
Delone Catholic senior forward Jill Novak discusses the team's 44-39 win over South Western Saturday. The Squirettes trio of Novak, Catie Apgar and Bradi Zumbrum have given smaller defenders fits this season. Matt Allibone
On most YAIAA girls' basketball teams, Jill Novak would stand out for her height.
On Delone Catholic, she blends right in.
The 6-foot-1 Novak is one of three Squirettes over 6-feet tall, joining 6-foot-3 junior Catie Apgar and 6-foot-1 sophomore Bradi Zumbrum. So far this season, the Delone Catholic trio has been terrorizing opponents on the boards and in the post as the Squirettes have started 5-0.
The three are still getting used to playing with each other, since Novak missed most of last season with a torn ACL. But the trio's early results have been positive.
"We've had (guards) to lean on in the past and now it's kind of on us," Novak said. "It's a big step and I think we're going there slowly. It's not going as fast as we like but it's getting there."
Last Saturday's game against South Western was a prime example of how hard it is for opposing teams to deal with Delone's size. With the Mustangs clinging to a two-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Squirettes started grabbing nearly every rebound, converting a couple into second-chance baskets. Novak (13 points), Apgar (10) and Zumbrum (eight) accounted for 70 percent of the team's points in a 44-39 win.
Right now, Novak (power forward) and Apgar (center) are the starters while Zumbrum comes off the bench. But the three do share the court on occasion, with Novak and Zumbrum taking turns on the wing.
"We've practiced with (5-foot-10 freshman) Maddie Clabaugh in there at the same time and she's a big too," head coach Gerry Eckenrode said. "We have played with four bigs at one time and there are times we may do that."
Added Zumbrum: "I love it. I get to shoot 3-pointers a lot. I don't really, but I like doing everything and it's nice having three bigs out there."
The key to the team's lineup is Novak, a team captain and Delone Catholic's leading scorer at 12.0 points per game. After missing all but five games last season, the Millersville commit scored 18 points on opening night against Camp Hill and hasn't looked back since.
In addition to points and rebounds, Novak brings a competitive fire to the team that matches the intensity of her fiery head coach.
"Our young guys who help coach with me, they have a hard time defending her in the post because she's rugged, she's a handful," Eckenrode said. "She's a strong kid inside and tough to defend."
With Apgar and Zumbrum continuing to make steady improvements, Eckenrode thinks the Squirettes will be tough to defend all season. To him, the biggest question will be how Delone responds once the competition ramps up over the course of the season.
The win over South Western was a good start. After winning their first four games by an average of 44 points, the Squirettes had to come back in the fourth quarter to beat the Mustangs.
"We needed a challenge," Eckenrode said. "I think we learned a lesson and still won the game."