ELMHURST – With a crowded gym and crosstown rivals visiting Friday, York senior guard Drew Kircher did everything he could to make sure the host Dukes prevailed against IC Catholic Prep.
Early on Kircher helped spark a defense that caused 10 Knights turnovers in the first quarter alone, then he dropped in a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter as York built an 18-point lead at the half. But he needed more heroics late to make sure the 11-4 Dukes could finish off IC Catholic Prep 67-49.
With John Hilgart tallying a game-high 26 points for the Knights, the visitors did their best to stay within striking distance in the final quarter, only to have Kircher seemingly score at will whenever his team was in need of a bucket.
“They have got a program that says ‘Never Say Die’ and this is always a close game over the years,” York coach Mike Dunn said while tipping his hat to the 7-8 Knights. “We knew that and we just wanted to stay true to what we do offensively and defensively. Obviously, Drew made some big shots down the stretch. He’s becoming our senior leader and we’re asking him to score and he’s doing a fantastic job that way.”
Kircher had four timely baskets in the final quarter to go along with a pair of free throws on his way to scoring 10 of his 23 points over the final eight minutes.
“I’m definitely taking on a leadership role as it’s my senior season, off the floor being a leader and on the floor late in the game when we need a bucket,” said Kircher, who has needed to play an even bigger role since senior Nick Hesch was lost to a knee injury early this season.
With both Elmhurst schools bringing plenty of fans to the gym for the boys-girls crosstown doubleheader, it was a loud, fun atmosphere. The Knights gave it their all before coming up short.
“That was the game plan from the start, get up and pressure them,” said Kircher of his team’s defense which forced 22 turnovers in the game. “We thought we could turn them over a lot, but they just kept coming. Even though we put the pressure on the whole game they didn’t let up. It’s always nice to beat IC when they come here to play. It’s a great rivalry and lot of fun.”
Hilgart, a senior forward, was a force both inside and outside, connecting on a trio of 3s, pulling down nine rebounds and scoring 16 of his 26 points in the second half.
“I think it was turnovers throughout the game even when we started to cut it down, they were our Achilles’ heel,” Knights coach T.J. Tyrrell said. “But credit to York, they came out with some aggressive pressure and we struggled to be composed in the early minutes.”
After making some adjustments in the second half, the Knights better protected the ball and allowed the offense to keep the visitors in the contest.
“It was a great atmosphere from both communities, it’s a fun event we all look forward to and I’m very thankful we get to play this game,” Tyrrell added. “Credit to our guys. They never quit and I’m proud of them for that. The execution wasn’t quite where we needed to be at, but we’ll get there.”
York registered a sweep on the night as the girls prevailed 58-42 over IC Catholic Prep in the first game of the night.