LORETTO - Have you ever been to a vacation spot a couple of times? Slowly, you discover the hidden hot spots, the secluded restaurants, the best places to relax about which first-time tourists are unaware. You find the shortcuts and learn to deal with the local residents.
Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School girls basketball has gotten to be that familiar with the postseason. The only difference is that the Lady Marauders have been there so often it's like they live there.
Guilfoyle was right at home at DeGol Arena Wednesday night in punching its ticket to the PIAA Class A finals with a 52-41 victory over Homer-Center, its fourth trip to the state finals in five years and third in a row.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Lady Marauder Halee Adams fights for a rebound.
"It's unreal. I've only dreamed about getting here three years in a row,'' Lady Marauder senior Kelsey Livoti said.
Livoti's words read like she was experiencing unrestrained joy. To hear them, though, it was as if she was having pizza for lunch. It was enjoyable, to be sure, but also something not out of the ordinary.
Consider this: None of these Lady Marauders have ever lost a playoff game. Livoti and her fellow senior, Chelsea Kerr, are 23-0 heading into Saturday's noon game at Bryce Jordan Center against Steelton-Highspire, a team Guilfoyle beat by 10 in the first game of the season.
Every win has made it that much easier for Guilfoyle the next time out. There's almost nothing they haven't seen.
"You know what the atmosphere is. You know how hard you need to play to get where you want to be,'' Livoti said. "The fans, every component, comes together. It helps because I know what's coming.''
That seemed to hold just as true for sophomores Halee Adams and Elyssa Ehredt, who were starters on last season's championship team, or soph Kayla Bates, who was coming off the bench a year ago, or even 10th grader Devin Stessney, who played sparingly as a freshman.
"We've been in this position before. We were pretty confident,'' Stessney, who, like Livoti, scored 11 points, about five points better than her average. "Just [having experienced] the little things helps.''
Homer-Center came out in a zone defense that was effective against North Catholic in the quarterfinals. Not known as a 3-point shooting team, Guilfoyle calmly made three treys in the first 11 minutes.
The Lady Marauders won the crucial moments at the end of the first and second quarters. In the fourth, Homer-Center got what had been a 17-point BG lead down to four, but the Guilfoyle players never panicked. They made 12-of-17 free throws down the stretch, held the Lady Wildcats scoreless for nearly 6 minutes while their own offense struggled and got almost every defensive board against a taller team.
Guilfoyle then put it away on Ehredt's driving layup on which she was fouled intentionally for a four-point play. Ehredt only took two shots all game, but made them both.
"I knew what to expect, having played in games like this before,'' Adams said. "It helps us, because we know we can make foul shots and things like that at the end.''
Homer-Center, by contrast, never had advanced this deep into the playoffs before. Although the Lady Wildcats mounted a valiant comeback, Guilfoyle pounced on any opportunity it was given and made it count.
"Having been here before is definitely advantage,'' Homer-Center star Kaitlyn Skinner said. "For us, in our first time being here, I think it meant more to us than them. We were just so intense and so happy to be here. We fought really, really hard. I'm proud of the way we played.''
Guilfoyle, though, was more like the Terminator: cool, calculated, unrelenting and fairly unemotional. It was more like a mission for which the Lady Marauders had been trained, drilled over and over again to a machine-like efficiency.
"When things get tough, I try to keep my emotions down on the ground, and I think we held our composure really well. I couldn't ask my teammates to do a better job,'' Livoti said. "I thought [the younger players] were a little nervous, but I liked the vibe coming in. Nerves are always going to be there, but I thought they were ready.''
Now they are ready to head back to the Bryce Jordan Center, their favorite home away from home.
It seems like the Bishop Guilfoyle Lady Marauders have a standing reservation there.
Cmor can be reached at 946-7440 or firstname.lastname@example.org.