If imitation is the best form of flattery, then hats off to the Spartans of Wyomissing, who edged the Squirettes of Delone Catholic to capture the District 3 Class 3A title in a matinee game at the Giant Center in Hershey on March 2.
The Squirettes only scored one point in the first 12 minutes of the basketball game, yet only trailed by 7 late in the first half when they finally found the bottom of the net on a couple of nifty inside knock downs by center Kaitlyn Stewart. That Delone led 13-12 going into halftime is testament to their ability to compete when they are not nearly playing their best basketball. If the score is football-like, then Delone Catholic is being Delone.
Tied 30-30 with a little more than three minutes left in the game and with possession, those familiar with head coach Gerry Eckenrode’s teams would say Delone was right in the position they hoped for. But, some uncharacteristic turnovers off of Wyomissing’s effective half-court zone trap gave the Spartans new life and they scored the last six points of the game to upset number-one seeded Delone for the gold medal.
Silver is not the Squirettes’ cup of tea, as they are usually able to bully teams into their style of play, which leads to opponents’ turnovers in crunch time. Yet, it was Delone who did not handle Wyomissing’s defensive pressure well on the brightly lit, big stage where they seemingly always perform flawlessly.
“Look, I am proud of Wyomissing for how they played and they deserve credit,” Coach Eckenrode told the press after the game. “I am not happy right now. A little lost for words. We turned the ball over when we finally got the lead – you just cannot do that…. We have grit and determination for sure…. We will put this in our rearview mirror and get after it again.”
Wyomissing’s big was a determining factor in the game as Amaya Stewart hit some crucial baskets late; defensively, her size inside all but neutralized Delone’s penetrating guard play, which is how their offense is generated. The mindset of drive, dish it out and knock down three-pointers has won dozens of District 3 championships and multiple state crowns for the Squirettes in the past 25 years. Delone Catholic does March Madness better than anybody, and this loss will make this team hungry in states, one can guess.
The Squirettes got a dose of their own medicinal formula from the Spartans. Great defense beats good offense every time, but this time it was not the black and gold to impose their will, but rather the blue and white from the eastside of Reading that knocked the king off the throne with the weapon they use so well – defensive pressure and steely nerve when it matters most.
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness