When Delone Catholic star forward Jill Novak went down with a torn ACL two weeks ago, it seemed like the annual rivalry game between the Squirettes and York Catholic might not be as competitive.
Irish coach Kevin Bankos didn't think that would be the case.
The veteran coach knew the Irish would be in for a challenge against a Delone team that still had a size advantage over the Irish. However, he also thought Novak's absence might hurt Delone in the fourth quarter.
Bankos turned out to be right. Taking on the Squirettes at home on Wednesday, the Irish rallied from an 11-point third-quarter deficit to win, 67-62. The win gave York Catholic (5-3, 4-0) sole possession of first place in YAIAA Division III.
"The biggest loss (for Delone) with Jill is her leadership and her poise, she would have provided that at the end of the game for them for sure," Bankos said. "That was another typical Delone-York Catholic game. They've played a hard schedule, so we weren't shocked by anything they were doing."
What Delone was doing early in the game was getting baskets and putbacks from forwards Catie Apgar, Bradi Zumbrum and Maddie Clabaugh. But York Catholic continued to use its quick guards to pressure and trap the Squirettes, which led to numerous turnovers in the second half.
The Irish cut Delone's lead to five at the end of the third quarter and took its first lead of the game with 1:51 to play when star junior Kate Bauhof converted a layup off of a steal by Abby Pilkey. An off-ball foul by Delone with under 30 seconds to play sealed the win for York Catholic.
Bauhof led the team with 27 points. She overcame a tough first half in which she was consistently double-teamed and scored just five points.
"I was more worried about if we were going to pull out the win," Bauhof said of her early scoring slump. "We just adjusted well because Coach Bankos had us prepared for all the situations they threw at us."
Apgar led Delone with 16 points and 13 rebounds. The Squirettes (6-3, 3-1) dominated the Irish on the boards for most of the game, but were unable to handle their pressure late in the contest.
Delone has now lost three straight games since losing Novak to the injury. Head coach Gerry Eckenrode said that while the team's effort on Wednesday was terrific, the Squirettes need to work on their ball handling.
"They played hard but at the end of the game panic set in," Delone coach Gerry Eckenrode said. "One of the keys of the game is you've got to help your teammates out. And when we got in the panic situations we didn't do that. That's a lesson to be learned."