Delone Catholic High head coach Gerry Eckenrode cannot remember the last time he has seen a game like his team played Monday night in the District 3 Class AA semifinal against Oley Valley.
It was a game that needed overtime to be decided and can easily be called an instant classic as Delone used two last-second shots, one in the fourth quarter as they came from 10 points down to tie the game and one in overtime, to earn a 73-72 win.
"I aged five years," Eckenrode said. "I do not remember coming back from that far back in a game like this ever."
Delone Catholic will advance to oppose York Catholic for the district championship at 6:15 p.m. Thursday at Hershey's Giant Center.
On Monday, Eckenrode looked at his team in the huddle and focused his attention on Mary Gingrow. Eckenrode's instructions were simple. They were going ot run an out-of-bounds play and Mary was going to get the ball.
Her response was not what Eckenrode hoped to hear.
"I didn't want it," Gingrow said. "I said let Abbey (Sponseller) get the ball because she had the hot hand and none of the shots I was taking were going in."
With 13.5 seconds left in overtime and the Squirettes down 72-71, it was not the time to be negotiating plays.
"I told her, 'You are getting the ball because you can attack the basket,'" Eckenrode said.
The inbounds pass went to Sponseller, who drove into the lane, turned her back to the basket and found Gingrow with a backward pass. Gingrow spun around and nailed the jumper to give Delone a 73-72 lead.
"The (second half) was probably one of the worst I have ever played in my life," Gingrow said. "I guess it was just my time to make the basket."
Oley Valley quickly got the ball to Courtney Dunn, who drove the length of the court, but missed the layup. Teammate Amanda Aulenback got the rebound and put back a layup that also missed, but fell into the arms of Kayla Matuszak, who took a shot with less than three seconds remaining. The ball rolled around the rim and fell into the arms of Delone's Julie Mall as time expired.
"That was the best feeling in the world," Mall said. " I knew at that point it was over. It was very nerve-racking when the ball was up in the air and knowing there is nothing you can do at that point."
The Squirettes' path to overtime was just as exhilarating.
Delone found itself trailing by 10 points with just under two minutes to play when Sponseller nailed a three from the right corner to cut into the lead.
On Delone' s next possession, Mall was fouled down low, but Oley Valley's Brandi Vallely picked up her fifth foul. Vallely was a huge reason Oley had the lead. She finished the night with 19 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and three steals.
After the teams went back and forth, Mall found herself back at the line with less than a minute to go and the Squirettes down 63-58. Again she drained both free throws to cut the lead to three.
Three consecutive Oley Valley free throws extended the lead to 66-60 with 35.6 seconds left.
Delone again found Sponseller in the right corner and she again drained the three to cut the lead to 66-63. Delone fouled Oley Valley's Matuszak, but she missed both free throws and Delone got the rebound and immediately called for a timeout.
The Squirettes ran a set play for Sponseller, who took a crosscourt pass in the right corner and, for the sixth time, drained the three with 3.7 seconds left to tie the game and send it into overtime.
"I had absolutely no idea the ball was going in when I let it go," Sponseller said. "I knew what play we were running and I just shot it like I was shooting them the whole game and it went in."
Delone's Maddie Comly had fouled out with 13.6 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
"(Sponseller and I) knew, when Comly fouled out, that we needed to step up offensively," Mall said. "Maddie is usually the one leading us in our offenses, but when she isn't there, you have to find a way to pull it out."
Eckenrode can now breathe a sigh of relief.
"We are awful lucky," he said. "I thought Oley Valley played tremendously. They made some outstanding shots. It is a relief to get here. As time was dwindling down, you didn't think you had a chance. Our girls came through and we hung in there and got it done."
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OLEY VALLEY (72)
Courtney Dunn 10 7-10 29, Brandi Vallely 7 5-7 19, Amanda Rizzuti 5 3-5 16, Aulenbach 3 0-0 6, Deptula 1 0-0 2, Matuszak 0 0-2 0, Kauffman 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 15-24 72.
DELONE CATHOLIC (73)
Abbey Sponseller 9 3-3 27, Maddie Comly 9 0-0 20, Mall 1 5-5 7, Shipley 3 0-1 6, Gingrow 3 0-1 6, Ball 2 1-2 5, Durbin 1 0-0 2, Ugarte 0 0-0 0, Laughman 0 0-0 0, WIlson 0 0-0 0, Becker 0 0-0 0, Neiderer 0 0-0 0. Totals 28 9-12 73.
Oley Valley 17 11 17 21 6 -- 72
Delone Catholic 9 18 15 24 7 -- 73
3-point goals -- Oley Valley 5 (Rizzuti 3, Dunn 2); Dfelone Catholic 8 (Sponseller 6, Comly 2).