York Catholic managed to win the District 3 championship against league rival Delone Catholic, and Irish head coach Kevin Bankos crossed off another milestone by winning his 300th career game. Jim Seip, GameTimePA.com
Last Thursday's District 3 Class 3A girls' title game had a very familiar feel to it.
For the fifth time in the past seven years, York Catholic and Delone Catholic played for a district title, with the Irish prevailing, 57-46. It was another chapter in the longstanding rivalry between the two programs and head coaches Kevin Bankos and Gerry Eckenrode.
That rivalry doesn't appear to be losing any steam anytime soon.
While it may seem too early to be talking about next season, it would be surprising if the Irish and Squirettes aren't once again the top contenders in YAIAA Division III and District 3 Class 3A. Both teams relied on young players this season and will bring back most of their lineups, making a district title rematch a strong possibility.
“I hope so," York Catholic's Bankos said. "The best part about it is there’s two York teams playing in a district final, that’s pretty impressive. I know Gerry will have a great shot at coming back, when you have that size and then you add some guards, that’s a winning formula.”
Of course, Bankos has his own winning formula with all five of his starters returning, including star guard Kate Bauhof. Still, there's plenty of reasons for him to think Delone Catholic will continue to be a formidable opponent.
The Squirettes will lose both of their starting guards to graduation, but they'll bring back the towering forwards that made them a matchup nightmare for most teams this season. In addition to 6-foot-3 junior Catie Apgar and 6-foot-1 sophomore Bradi Zumbrum, 5-foot-11 freshman Maddie Clabaugh will be poised for a bigger role after improving throughout this season.
The emergence of young players like Clabaugh and Zumbrum is the one silver lining for Delone after it lost senior captain Jill Novak to a torn ACL this year. The Squirettes won't lack experience next season, and that could be key in finally getting past York Catholic in a district title game. Delone has lost all five of those championship contests in the past seven years, and it hasn't won a district title since 2004.
"I think the light at the end of our tunnel is in the foreseeable future," Eckenrode said. "We’re playing with four sophomores, a freshman, a junior and two seniors, so our time is coming. And I’ve got a young group in grade school that’s going to be a pretty good group. We can compete."
Still, Eckenrode knows it will be far from easy for the Squirettes to topple the Irish moving forward. After all, York Catholic brings back Bauhof, who averaged 25 points per game in three wins over Delone this season. The return of sophomore Riley Vingsen from injury should boost Delone's backcourt, but the Squirettes will still need to improve in that area.
So could next year be Delone's chance to break through in the postseason against York Catholic?
"They’ve got everybody back so I won’t go that far," Eckenrode said. "We have to develop ball-handlers and shooters."
However it shakes out, the high-stakes battles between York Catholic and Delone Catholic don't seem to be going away. Don't be surprised if the teams meet again at the Giant Center next season.
"Just seeing everyone on both teams get better and better and keep playing each other two, three times a season is really fun," Bauhof said. "We both know each other's strengths and weaknesses. It’s always really fun playing Delone, it’s always a challenge.”