York Catholic, Delone rivalry renewed for district title game
Amid all of the changes to the District 3 basketball tournament this year, at least one championship game has a familiar feel to it.
The York Catholic and Delone Catholic girls' basketball teams will once again play for district gold Thursday night in Hershey.
It's the 12th straight berth in the finals for York Catholic, which won an unprecedented 10 straight Class 2A titles from 2006-2015 before losing to Camp Hill in last year's final.
The Irish championship run included four victories against Delone Catholic, from 2011-14. And after a two-year hiatus, the YAIAA Division III rivals will play once again for the crown, this time in Class 3A after the PIAA expanded from four to six classifications. The showdown is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Thursday at Hershey's Giant Center.
The squads earned their berths in the title tilt with semifinal wins on Friday night at South Western. Delone defeated Middletown, 66-41, in the opener, and York Catholic took down Pequea Valley, 55-42, in the nightcap.
Both teams have already qualified for the PIAA tournament: Thursday's result will determine their first-round matchup in that tournament. The winner will face the third-place team from District 4, and the loser will play the third-place team from District 12.
York Catholic (19-6) won both regular season matchups this season, although the Irish had to stage fourth-quarter comebacks in both contests, giving the Squirettes their only division losses of the season.
Delone (19-6) has played without senior center Jill Novak since the sixth game of the season when she tore an ACL for the second straight year. The Squirettes also lost sophomore guard Riley Vingsen for the entire season to an ACL tear.
The Squirettes are led by their enormous front line of 6-foot-1 sophomore Bradi Zumbrum (11.0 points per game), 5-foot-11 freshman Maddie Clabaugh (8.0) and 6-foot-3 junior Catie Apgar (7.5).
Zumbrum and Clabaugh both established new career highs in points in Delone's win against Middletown with Zumbrum scoring 31 points and pulling down 12 boards and Clabaugh scoring 18 points and hauling in 10 rebounds.
In the York Catholic's 47-46 victory at Delone on Jan. 27, Zumbrum proved to be a big challenge as she scored 19 points to go with eight rebounds.
"They're a very good team and both games were slugfests. I don't expect it to be any different on Thursday," York Catholic Kevin Bankos said. "They're a big team and they'll be very tough to beat. It's tough to beat any team three times in one season."
Junior Kate Bauhof, who missed the Irish's win over Pequea Valley with an illness, paces her squad at 18.5 points per game, good for second in the YAIAA. Bauhof has buried a league-best 50 3-pointers and is second in the YAIAA in free-throw percentage at 81 percent.
Abby Pilkey, a 6-foot-1 junior forward, checks in at 9 points per game.
"It'll be a tough challenge for us. It always is when we play York Catholic," Delone coach Gerry Eckenrode said. "We have to play better defense than we have against them the first two times we play if we're going to win."
The advantage in experience playing at Giant Center falls squarely on the York Catholic side, which is playing in its 12th straight title game.
For Delone, Novak and fellow senior Elise Knobloch played in the 2014 game as freshman, but no other Squirette has played in the cavernous arena.
"I've told the girls that it could be the biggest stage that they ever play on in their basketball careers," Eckenrode said. "But it's still a game."
But Bankos wasn't buying the experience advantage.
"We can't rely on that and expect it to carry us to the win," he said. "Delone is too good of a team for that. We'll have to be prepared and ready to go."
If you go
What: District 3 Class 3A girls' basketball championship game
Who: No. 1 York Catholic (19-6) vs. No. 2 Delone Catholic (19-6)
When: 6:15 p.m. Thursday
Where: Giant Center, Hershey
Tickets: Advance tickets sold at the schools cost $4 for students and $6 for adults. All tickets sold at the gate cost $6.
Live updates: Follow live updates on the action at GameTimePA.com.