His attention wasn't all there. Eckenrode was still fending off thoughts of that final game, when Delone was submerged under a salvo of free throws from Montrose's all-state guard, Dallas Ely.
Eckenrode was trying to take his mind off matters, but the recurring sight of All-American guard Sierra Moore being whistled for a light foul on Ely kept replaying in his mind. Over, over, and over again.
The quote, "Accept the things you can't change, change the things you can't accept," may have resonated with Eckenrode at that moment, as the residual effects of that loss hindered his relaxation.
Eckenrode is known to not take losing well.
Then, ESPN grabbed Eckenrode's attention. He pasted his eyes onto legendary head coach Mike Kryzyzewski, who was addressing a hungry media horde.
Coach K's Blue Devils had just suffered a first-round flameout, a brutal and buzz-generating upset at the hands of 15th-seeded Lehigh in the NCAA tournament.
Eckenrode grabbed the remote and cranked up the volume to its max level.
"I've been in it for 37 years and it takes you to incredible highs and it also takes you to incredible lows," said Kryzyzewski, his words percolating Eckenrode's brain.
Eckenrode may not tote the high-profile hoops pedigree of Coach K, but he's felt the agony and the ecstasy that comes with keeping a perennial power at the top of the heap.
"Mike, I know how you feel, buddy," said Eckenrode, his low mood suddenly lightened by an outpour of infectious laughter. "I look back at that Montrose game and think, 'If this would have happened, it would have made a difference. It's agonizing. You torture yourself. You eventually get over it, but it's tough when you miss an opportunity."
Eckenrode takes the All-Area Coach of the Year honors following a 23-6 campaign that culminated with the 52-50 loss to Montrose in a foul-plagued PIAA quarterfinal.
While the season may not have ended the way Eckenrode envisioned, he won't be sulking or contemplating the "ifs" much longer. The seeds for the offseason begin to take root in June. Delone Catholic is slated to compete in AAU tournaments at Red Lion and Gettysburg.
In July, a massive showcase event at York Fairgrounds, the inaugural Blue Chip Basketball USA Invitational, will take place. York Fairgrounds will instantly become a proving ground for players from across the country, players on the recruiting radar and flying under it.
"You'll see a lot of college coaches meandering around there," Eckenrode said. "Players from Connecticut, Canada, and Spain. It's going to be a showcase event for all to see. We're excited about it."
A loquacious basketball junkie, Eckenrode has molded a decent-sized talent pool the past few seasons. The pressure to produce at a high level and keeping Delone on the map is always there, according to Eckenrode. He commends his girls for answering to sky-high expectations and muting some of the skeptics.
While managing 12 different personalities end molding them into a perennial contender can be an arduous task, Eckenrode says that the 2011-12 Squires had unique camaraderie that translated into chemistry on the hardwood.
"You've got to look back at it and realize the kids have really done a great job," Eckenrode said. "They were very easy to coach, as far as working with them in practice and trying to get your point across to them.
"I'm also very fortunate to have a very good coaching staff. This coaching staff has been with me for at least 10 years now. It's very rare at the high school level that you can keep a coaching staff for that long. They deserve some credit for the time they put in."
The biggest offseason blow for Eckenrode is the loss of Duke-bound wing Moore, who graduates this spring. The McDonald's All-American was an indispensable ingredient the past four years, stuffing the stat sheet and making her teammates beneficiaries of her double team-commanding presence.
Moore, the Hanover area's all-time leading scorer, took some ownership of the Squirettes her last two seasons.
"Sierra's been a leader since her freshman year here," Eckenrode said. "I think the kids recognize her ability. Whether it was spoken or implied, the kid's really knew she was a special player. She was the go-to player all four years. She was very focused on what level she wanted to get to and what she wanted to accomplish. She kept good grades, kept extremely focused on what she wanted to get out of basketball. It's rare when a kid has the athletic ability and applies herself the way she did."
Eckenrode may replenish some star power with freshman guard Maddie Comly. Comly's game took off during the postseason.
"As long as she works on her game, Maddi will be a very good player at Delone," Eckenrode said. "As long as she keeps on working, keeps focus, she'll have a great career in front of her too. It wouldn't really be fair to compare her to Sierra. But as long as she stays focused, she should have a very good career for us too."
One walks out the door, another walks in the door. Basketball has brought Eckenrode to incredible highs and lows. For the 11 of the 13 years he's been at Delone Catholic, however, the Squirettes have been an upper-echelon team.
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