Eagles confident heading into first state game since 1992

Youngsville’s Gage Hendrickson goes up for two of his game-high 19 points during the first quarter of Tuesday’s District 10 Class 2A semifinal game against Farrell at Oil City High School.

The Youngsville Eagles know what’s in front of them when they take on Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the first round of the PIAA Class 2A state championships on Saturday (Peters Township High School, 6 p.m.)

They don’t care that they are a heavy underdog against a team that is ranked No. 2 in the state and many believe will make it to the state championship game.

They are competitors, ones that have accomplished more than any Youngsville team in 28 years, and they are embracing the opportunity in front of them.

“We’re one of the top 32 teams in the state,” said junior guard Joe Mack. “We know we can play with anybody and we’ve earned this.”

Added senior Gage Hendrickson: “We’re capable of playing against anyone. We’ve made it here by playing against good teams.”

The Chargers (24-1) aren’t imposing from a size standpoint, with no player taller than 6-3. What they do have, however, are as dynamic of a guard duo as you will find in Pennsylvania in 6-3 sophomore Jake DiMichele and 5-11 junior Dante Spadafora.

DiMichele is averaging 27.6 ppg. and went over the 1,000-point mark in his team’s thrashing of Winchester-Thurston in the WPIAL semifinals. Spadafora, meanwhile, checks in at 22.2 ppg.

They are terrific shooters and equally adept at slashing and driving to the rim.

“Their guard play is exceptional,” said Youngsville coach Jesse DeLoof. “They have two guards that will be the best players we have seen all year. They can make shots from anywhere. They are dynamic scorers that like to play fast. There’s a reason they’ve only lost one games. They can flat out score.”

As a team, the Chargers are averaging 76.6 ppg.

And while OLSH is coming off an 81-72 over Sto-Rox in the WPIAL championship game, Youngsville has suffered back-to-back losses in the D-10 semis and third-place game to Farrell and Cambridge Springs after beating Mercer and Rocky Grove to qualify for the state playoffs.

“The Cambridge Springs game was disappointing, but, win or lose, it’s on to the next opportunity,” DeLoof said. “That’s how they treated Monday. Everyone came to work, that was behind us. It was back to work, ready to have a good week of practice and hopefully play well on Saturday.”

And through the wins and the losses this postseason, it’s clear that this team has enjoyed the opportunity they have earned.

“It’s been awesome. It’s what we hoped to do this year,” Hendrickson, the team’s leading scorer, said. “We want to keep it going. We’ve been thinking about this since we were little.”

And they certainly don’t care what people on the outside may say about their chances. They are playing in March, and that means they are one of the final 32 in their class in Pennsylvania.

“It gives us something to prove,” Mack said. “We’re going to practice, waiting for baseball to be over. That’s pretty nice. That’s never really happened before.”

And while they are focused on the task at hand, they also appreciate the fact that they have worked their way to this point.

“There are cool things, like seeing our name on that bracket,” DeLoof said. “I hope the guys see that, print them off and put them on their wall because that’s a heck of an accomplishment.”

There’s not going to be a ‘Hoosiers’ moment for this team. They know the task in front of them is a tall one. But they’ve already accomplished so much this season, and aren’t going to approach this game any differently.

A team led by the core group of Hendrickson, Mack, Austin Peterson, Ethan Kesterholt, Brady Olewine, Timber Bower, Dominic Dell and Owen Procter is ready for this moment.

“They’re going to put five guys on the court just like we are,” DeLoof said. “They are very good, there’s no doubt about that. So go out and compete. Go do what you do and do it for 32 minutes and hopefully the outcome is in our favor.

“This is what good programs do. This is when good teams play. When you look at your regular-season schedule, Feb. 11 should not be your last game if you’re doing things the right way. If you’re putting in the work. We expect to be playing in March. That’s when Youngsville should be playing. It shouldn’t be an every 10-year, every 20-year thing. We should be playing in March every year.”


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