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Column: York Catholic gracious in defeat

HERSHEY – Even Kevin Bankos knew the streak had to end eventually.

Yes, York Catholic finally lost a District 3 Class AA championship game Thursday night in Hershey. However, the fact the Fighting Irish had won 10 straight titles, the longest basketball run in District 3 history, needs to be celebrated.

On the night it finally happened, Bankos was the epitome of class. He basically said exactly what was expected: Camp Hill was better on the night. The Lions deserved to win, 54-40.

He even commented that if an NCAA Division I school isn’t interested in Camp Hill senior Leah Springer, something is wrong.

There were many examples of how good Springer was on her way to scoring 31 points. Yet, the number that doomed the Irish was the 17 rebounds she pulled down, many on the offensive end, most of which killed any momentum York Catholic could get.

Afterward in the quiet halls of Giant Center, Bankos thought about the 11 straight championship game appearances.

“That’s crazy. Getting to the district final 11 years in a row doesn’t even sound right.”

He’s right. It is crazy.

Here is some perspective: Many of the Irish players hadn’t even started elementary school when York Catholic captured that first district title that started the run — in 2006.

Even with that level of success, it’s about making it to the big game. Playing on the big floor in Chocolatetown.

“I’ve tried to explain to people numerous times that it’s hard to get here and, eventually someone else is going to win,” Bankos said. “You always have to keep (the players) focused that the semifinal game is the hardest game.”

“I want them to understand what kind of program they are in. Because that is important to keep it going,” he added. “If you don’t understand what kind of program you are in, you can’t do these things. I am very proud of what we have done.”

Others were also not shocked at how gracious Bankos was — and always is. His daughter, Ashton Bankos, an assistant coach on the Irish bench, agreed.

“It’s the way he handles everything. He’s amazing,” she said. “We talk to the kids that it doesn’t matter. Sure, we like gold better than silver, but there’s still 20 teams wanting to be here.”

Considering the amount of freshmen and sophomores on the floor for the Irish, starting another streak in 2017 is a distinct possibility.

Although the classifications will look different, I would not be surprised if the Irish return to Giant Center for a 12th straight year. It’s why Kevin Bankos told his kids to enjoy the night.

“I told them in there. It shouldn’t feel good because they are all competitors," Bankos said, "but the amount of experience we gained, even just warming up ...”

Hey, there’s nothing wrong with second — especially when handled like the Irish did Thursday night.