Though the Crusaders of Lancaster Catholic were the number-one seed in the Class 4A District 3 tournament, the favorite in the championship game at the Giant Center in Hershey on February 28 was Columbia. The Crimson Tide, off a Lancaster-Lebanon League Championship and riding a 16-game win streak behind the great play of the Droege twins (Brie and Brooke) who can shoot, penetrate and score at will, were the team to bet on.
Credit goes to the Crusaders, who played tough man-to-man defense, jump switched picks on defense and helped each other defensively when one of the twins did beat their man off the dribble. Rarely did these prolific scorers get a great look at the basket uncontested the entire game. The Crusaders never let Columbia enter the bonus, which was a huge determining factor of the game as the Tide didn’t get any free points off foul shots. The final score was 49-34, though the game was far closer than the final tally showed.
“If I had to boil it down to one word tonight about this basketball team, I would say it was motivation,” head coach Charlie Dietz said about his winning Crusaders after the game. “We were just so motivated to win this game; to play as a team and they did that tonight…. And I am really proud of the team effort we had.”
Columbia nailed a three-pointer seconds into the game, but then only scored two points the rest of the opening stanza, which gave Lancaster Catholic offensive opportunities to build a steady, increasing lead. That cushion was important, as the Crimson Tide, though down double digits in the third quarter, had no quit in them. The Tide’s half-court 1-2-2 trapping zone gave the Crusaders fits for a while as the Crusaders committed a host of turnovers to let the Tide back into the game with three minutes left in the game. But Catholic’s point guard Mary Bolesky, who played a stellar game with a team-high 18 points and whose ball handling ultimately broke the Columbia trap with the dribble, sealed the triumph on the Crusaders’ 20th District 3 basketball championship. That ties them for the most District 3 crowns in history, with the Beavers of Lebanon Catholic whose school closed in 2020.
“Winning a district championship is a special thing,” Bolesky said after the game, with the gold medal adorned around her neck. “We are all competitors and we all really wanted this… to win it.”
Lancaster Catholic’s rich tradition of great girls’ basketball goes way back, with Coach Lamar Kauffman winning the vast majority of the school’s titles. His legacy lives on as the Crusaders continue to play tough, full-court pressure defense that just wears great opponents down over 32-minutes of feverish basketball.
Never does it seem that the Crusaders lack a gritty, hard-nosed point guard who takes a punch and punches back even harder when it’s crunch time. It’s just a constant, steady tradition of great guards and a formula that wins, 20 times over.
It just so happens that Mary Bolesky wears number 20 – a not so subtle irony – as milestone win number 20 would not have happened without her fiercely determined play.
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness