York Catholic’s bus pulled up next to Giant Center in Hershey at about 10:20 a.m., as the Fighting Irish will have Bishop Canevin in today’s PIAA Class AA girls’ basketball championship game. Tipoff is at noon.
Coach Kevin Bankos was the first to take the floor. This is a routine for him, only mostly at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center, where the state championships had been held until returning this year to Hershey. York Catholic has been in seven of the last eight PIAA finals, winning the first three during that run. This is the second straight season for this group.
FIRST ONES HERE
Of course, Bishop Canevin had a longer way to travel from Pittsburgh, but York Catholic’s girls were first on the floor about quarter till 11 a.m. This has been another ritual for the Irish, taking pregame pictures. The feel is that of a high school graduation. For Morgan Klunk and Katie McNamara, the lone seniors on this club, it kind of is.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
First, let’s start with Bishop Canevin (26-4), which is coming off a 41-36 win against rival Seton-LaSalle. Of course, Seton-LaSalle beat York Catholic in last season’s Class AA championship game, but the Crusaders made sure that rematch wouldn’t happen. Their win Tuesday was about proving their WPIAL/District 7 title game win wasn’t a fluke after dropping both regular-season games to the defending state champs.
As for the Fighting Irish (29-2) they dismantled District 1 champion Saint Basil Academy Tuesday after a stalemate in the first quarter of their PIAA semifinal. Click here for highlights of that semifinal win and here for their quarterfinal win against Pine Grove. While we’re at it, check out what happened last time York Catholic played in Giant Center — beating Delone Catholic for its eighth straight District 3 title.
York Catholic will go with its usual lineup during this state run. Junior Deanna Chesko will run the point, Zaenna Echevarria, Klunk and Amelia York will flank her at the guard spots, while 6-foot-2 sophomore Hannah Laslo will be in the post.
Bishop Canevin looks like this: Three guards with 5-8 freshman Gina Vallecorsa, 5-11 Duquesne-bound Erin Waskowiak and 5-10 senior Celina DiPietro. The forwards will be Carly Forse, a 5-10 senior who scored a game-high 17 points in the state semifinals, and 5-9 junior Johnie Olkosky, a dangerous 3-point shooter.
In case you were wondering, the Class A boys’ matchup of District 12 champ Vaux and District 9 champion Johnsonburg will follow this game at 2 p.m. That’s assuming the Irish and Crusaders don’t get into overtime or the post-game celebrations last a little longer than the PIAA hoped.
The nightcap will start with the Class AAAA girls’ matchup of Spring-Ford, which ended Dover’s season, and Cumberland Valley at 6 p.m.. Spring-Ford isn’t a shock to be here. It won District 1, but CV finished FIFTH in District 3.
The Class AAA boys’ title game will wrap up the night with Imhotep Charter of District 12 taking on Archbishop Carroll, also of District 12. Neither of these teams won that district. Imhotep lost its district final to Neumann-Goretti, which of course was upset by Donegal. If any Irish fans stuck around Tuesday for that Imhotep-Donegal game in Reading, they witnessed a near-miracle comeback for Donegal. Archbishop Carroll lost its district consolation game to Philadelphia Electric. Fun fact, Philly Electric’s Hakeem Baxter is cousins with William Penn senior Ohsajid Beard. But I digress, it’s always kind of strange and funny to see teams finish further in the state tournaments than opponents they lost to during districts.