Greencastle-Antrim Blue Devils bring home first girls’ hoops district title

JOYCE F. NOWELL, Echo Pilot
A happy group of G-AHS basketball players show off the District 3-AAA trophy they won Saturday at the Giant Center in Hershey.

HERSHEY — One might think that a visit to Hershey’s Chocolate World Saturday was pretty sweet for the Greencastle-Antrim High School girls’ basketball team. But it was just a way to savor a much more succulent experience a couple hours earlier at the nearby Giant Center.

The young ladies had finished off a run in the District 3-AAA Championships at the top of the bracket, bringing home the first district title to Greencastle-Antrim during the long history of the sport at the school.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing that happens,” said senior Jane Herman.

“We just wanted to go out there hard; play our hardest and that’s all we could do.”

Double gold

Ironically the once-in-a-lifetime experience also includes a soccer district championship won last fall for each of the starters on the team. It’s not something that Herman, classmate Katie Gelsinger, juniors Hannah Crist and Meghan Hirneisen and sophomore Jenay Faulkner take lightly, but the key to the successes turns on camaraderie.

Herman said, “It’s having fun and staying together.”

“This is amazing,” said Crist shortly after the Devils had hoisted the district championship trophy in front of the vocal student section in the huge Giant Center.

“It was a surprise in soccer and it's a surprise now. But we've earned it with our hard work. This was our goal from the beginning of the season and we were really hoping. We all won this in soccer too. It's just a really great feeling.”

Gelsinger has now tasted district titles in three sports, winning gold with the softball team earlier in her high school athletic career.

“It's amazing to be a part of it,” said the senior. “If you would have asked me freshman year if I thought I'd get three district titles I would have said not at all. But I'm not satisfied. I want states. I want to come home with a state medal.”

The right stuff

On Saturday the Devils never trailed and in fact led Conrad Weiser by as much as 18 points, but had to hold off a couple of charges by the Scouts late in the game that cut the advantage to as little as two points, showcasing not only the talent of the team, but also confidence and composure.

Mike Rhine, who has been the head coach of the team for the past four years, was emotional after the win, “We don't do this with one person. We do this with an entire team. I'm a happy guy. I love those kids and I love their parents. I'm proud to be just a small part of it. It's just awesome.”

While Rhine knows the Devils will have to buckle down this week in preparation for the PIAA State Championship Tournament that begins Saturday, he was ready to enjoy the accomplishment of bringing home the top trophy.

“It's all gravy from here,” said the Devil skipper. “I'll think about the next game  Monday. We'll get to work and we'll prepare as we do any other time.

“Anything that happens from here, there's no failure. This is all success and it is sweet.”

Rhine knows he has a special group in the team that has never had a different head coach. “So we're probably in contact way too much for their liking. But they are amazing. They don't stop. They do what we ask. They don't question it. They do it 100 percent. I couldn't ask for nicer kids, their families. It couldn't have happened to a nicer group of people.”

Doing the job

The Devils had gained a lot of confidence with a win at the Giant Center earlier in the week when they knocked off previously unbeaten West York in the semifinals. They had already tasted success in a gigantic venue. Now they had to put together another big win to have the gold hanging around their necks.

“I don't think I can describe it,” said Gelsinger.

“Before the game I knew something special was going to happen. I was trying to choke back tears. To be on a team with these amazing girls and to do it in soccer and then in basketball with the same girls and against the same team. I don't think that really ever happens.”

Gelsinger hopes the accomplishments of the group are something that younger athletes will look at as something to shoot for.

“Anything is possible if you put your mind to it. I don't doubt anybody in our school could do it. It takes the little things like rebounding and keeping the girls up and happy. It's more than just playing basketball. There's more than just the game of basketball, or soccer, or softball. Any girl, if they put their mind to it, they can achieve it,” she said.

“We knew it wasn't going to be easy and we don't want it if it's easy. We want to earn our spot and prove to people that we are here for a reason.”

It’s not over

It’s clear that the Blue Devils don’t want the season to be over and they will set their sights on the state tournament.

“We can't let this be the end. We need to keep pushing forward and keep working hard at practice and hope for more wins,” said Crist.

Gelsinger agreed, “We're not satisfied. and anything is possible.”

While Rhine realizes that anything earned in a state tournament is really icing on the cake, he knows the feeling of Saturday’s win will never be replicated.

“It's really like you can't put it into words,” said the coach. “It's really like you're looking from outside at somebody else or watching a movie of somebody else. It's surreal. I don't want to wake up. I want to keep it going.”

That would be just fine with the players; at the next level.

“It's definitely fun. It's a memorable senior year,” said Herman. “That's for sure. Words can't describe how it feels. It's awesome. Not everyone gets the chance to do this so it definitely feels good. We'll see what happens next.”