A Celebration of Delone Catholic Basketball - Past and Present
- Boys Basketball
- Girls Basketball
The past and present collided in a sentimental celebration of Black and Gold in the Lawrence B. “Sonny” Sheppard, Jr. Memorial Gymnasium on Saturday, Jan. 27 at Delone Catholic High School.
On an evening when the boys’ basketball team would log its 1,200th win in program history and the girls’ basketball team would extend its home game winning streak to 57, the School reunited six state championship basketball teams, honored girls’ basketball head coach Gerry Eckenrode for 25 years of distinguished leadership, and celebrated senior Camdyn Keller’s 1,000th career point in front of a home crowd.
Delone Catholic High School boys’ basketball has a long and proud history dating to the 1920s as St. Mary’s High School. The boys were joined in varsity competition by the girls’ basketball program in 1969-70. Year in and year out, the Squires and Squirettes have been among the outstanding teams at the local, district, and state levels. The reunion brought back the two boys’ basketball teams and four girls’ basketball teams that reached the pinnacle of on-court success – winning state championships.
Celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, 1973-74 Squires weathered a tough schedule filled with South Central League and Central Penn Catholic League opponents and finished the regular season on a three-game winning streak to qualify for the Pennsylvania Catholic Interscholastic Athletic Association Class B playoffs. In the playoffs, they survived a double overtime thriller against Lansdale Catholic and handled Archbishop Kennedy in the eastern final. In the state championship, the Squires took on Pittsburgh’s South Side Catholic and held off a late charge for a 60-59 win and the school’s first team state championship. The team finished the season 13-12 and holds the distinction of playing in the final PCIAA game ever played.
The 1988-89 Squires celebrate their 35th anniversary this year. They were a senior-laden squad with a wealth of experience, but few headline-grabbing stars. Competing as a team, they won a school-record 29 games, a record which still stands, and went 19-1 in Blue Mountain League play. They captured the league title by avenging their only league loss with a resounding win against Fairfield in the BML championship game. In the District 3 playoffs, the top-seeded Squires won in the quarterfinals to secure a bid to the state tournament, before suffering a pair of three-point defeats – their only losing streak of the season – in the semifinals and consolation. Following those losses, few experts gave Delone Catholic much chance in the PIAA playoffs, but the Squires assembled a five-game winning streak, including two overtime victories, to claim the school’s first PIAA team title in any sport. The Squires defeated Brentwood, 68-61, on April 1, 1989 at Hersheypark Arena.
In 2001-02, the Squirettes captured a District 3 Class 2A championship and advanced to the state semifinal, after which a strong senior class left McSherrystown for the next stage of their lives. No one was exactly sure what to expect in 2002-03, in spite of a great deal of returning talent from the previous year and additions from the lower levels of the program. Using a balanced scoring attack with only one player averaging double-digit points for the season and a stifling team defense that allowed only 35.7 points per game, the Squirettes compiled a 30-5 overall record. At one point, they won 11 games in a row and finished the season on a nine-game winning streak.
During their run in the district and state playoffs, the 2002-03 Squirettes, who celebrate their 21st anniversary this year, won by a combined 216 points with a single-digit margin of victory in only two games. They defeated Steelton-Highspire, 48-30, at the Giant Center in Hershey for the program’s third District 3 title. The Squirettes then returned to the Giant Center on March 21, 2003, beating Girard, 50-41, and bringing Delone Catholic’s first PIAA championship in girls’ basketball home to McSherrystown.
For many programs and individuals, a state title is a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment, but many members of the 2003-04 Delone Catholic girls’ basketball team entered the season already having claimed one gold medal. With so much of the team that won the program’s first state championship returning, expectations were high when the season started. The Squirettes would not be able to sneak up on anyone. It did not seem to matter, though, as they wrote one of the most dominant chapters in the Squirette history book.
Delone Catholic won by an average margin of 17 points and finished perfect in YAIAA play. The team posted a still-standing school record for wins, with a 33-2 overall record, with the season’s only losses coming to larger schools in the championships of the Hempfield Christmas Tournament and the YAIAA Tournament. In the district and state playoffs, the Squirettes’ margin of victory was single digits only once. They captured the program’s third straight District 3 championship with a 55-40 win against Wyomissing. They then went on to successfully defend their state crown with a 46-33 victory over Bishop Guilfoyle on March 19, 2004. They celebrate their 20th anniversary this year.
As the calendar turned to December 2004, Delone Catholic returned an outstanding and experienced core of players who had contributed heavily to the program’s first two PIAA Class 2A championships in the previous two seasons. All eyes were on McSherrystown to see if the Squirettes could extend the remarkable run. Any questions about whether the team could be in the conversation for state gold were erased almost immediately. The second game of the season, a four-point win against Trinity in the Catholic Tip-Off Tournament championship, established what would be a season-long theme of hard-fought battles between the Squirettes and the Shamrocks. Delone Catholic opened the season with nine straight wins. The season’s first loss was followed by a 15-game winning streak that was snapped in the YAIAA championship game. The outstanding regular season earned the Squirettes another berth in the District 3 playoffs. Three dominant performances set up a date with Trinity in the championship, a game that the Shamrocks won by three points.
Delone Catholic would regroup in the PIAA playoffs, dominating in the early rounds. The going got considerably tougher in the quarterfinal round, where the Squirettes defeated Schuylkill Valley, 44-42, in overtime. Trinity was waiting again in the semifinals. As in the second game of the season, the Squirettes earned a four-point win in what turned out to be the second-to-last game of the season and punched their ticket to the PIAA Class 2A championship game for the third straight season. On March 18, 2005, Delone Catholic defeated Westmont Hilltop, 47-43, to finish 32-3 – and as state champions. They celebrate their 19th anniversary this year.
Following a first-round exit in the 2018 state playoffs, the Squirettes hit the ground running with a 20-2 regular season in 2018-19. The Squirettes swept through YAIAA Division III play to capture their first outright division title in 10 years. After last night’s win against Fairfield, that streak has grown to 70 consecutive games in league play. The 2018-19 Squirettes reached the District 3 championship game, where they lost to Trinity for the second time that year. Ultimately, many around the team viewed that loss as the catalyst for what came next. A group of young players was maturing game-by-game while the seniors on the team dug in to become the leaders Coach Eckenrode knew they could be. Losing the district title game also shipped the Squirettes to the western half of the bracket. While requiring extended travel, that gave the Squirettes the time they needed to build momentum and roll into the state title game with previously unbeaten powerhouse Dunmore. To the shock of most observers throughout the state, Delone Catholic built a lead and held off a comeback attempt to capture the program’s most recent state title, a 49-43 victory on March 21, 2019. With many of the players from the 2019 Squirettes PIAA Class 3A championship still playing college basketball, Coach Eckenrode represented that squad, which celebrates their fifth anniversary this year.
The passage of time has not diminished the pride the Delone Catholic family has in these accomplishments. In fact, it only grows as we recognize the role these men and women played in setting a standard not only for the boys’ and girls’ basketball programs but also for Squires and Squirettes in all sports.
The one person who was a constant on all four of the Squirettes’ state championship teams is head coach Gerry Eckenrode. Now in his 25th season guiding Delone Catholic girls’ basketball, Coach Eckenrode has compiled a record of 583-148. In his 24 completed seasons, the Squirettes have won 20 or more games 20 times, won or shared 16 YAIAA Division titles, qualified for the District 3 tournament every year, won six championships, and reached the state playoffs 22 times with four championships. He is only the second Delone Catholic head coach in any sport to serve as the head coach for 25 years.
One final recognition was warranted on Saturday evening - congratulating senior Camdyn Keller for joining the 1,000-point club in front of a home crowd. Keller achieved this milestone during the now historic quadruple overtime Jan. 24 win over York Tech. Athletic Director Rev. John Rudolph presented him with a game ball and banner celebrating the accomplishment.
Following the boys’ game, the returning state champions joined the current Squire and Squirette basketball squads for an informal reception at the McSherrystown Knights of Columbus.