HERSHEY – On the bulletin board in Bert Kendall’s office at Peters Township High School hangs copies of the WPIAL and PIAA high school basketball playoff brackets.
The only winner the Peters Township girls basketball coach has filled in over the last three weeks was Peters Township, after a first-round win over Harrisburg in the opening round of the state tournament.
The first time Kendall walked into his office after the Indians won an emotional rollercoaster in overtime against North Allegheny for the WPIAL title on March 2 – the Indians’ first district championship – he kept the bracket blank.
Even after a promise he made during his first day on the job at Peters Township was finished, the bracket remained clean.
“I told (Peters Township athletic director) Brian Geyer, when he interviewed me, that I just thought the girls deserved a little bit better than what they were getting,” Kendall recalled about his 2013 interview. “Then I remember my first practice when I told the girls we are going to eventually put a WPIAL championship up on the wall. None of the girls, who have all since graduated, believed me.”
Why would they?
The three years prior to Kendall becoming head coach, the Indians didn’t finish a season with a winning record. The Indians had three total victories and were winless in the section the year before he arrived.
“I think the big thing with Peters Township, you always have a chance,” Geyer said. “We have great kids throughout, and 3-19 was an anomaly. That’s not what we were indicative of. When Bert and his assistants (Katie Kendall and Samantha Loadman) came in, they had a maturity and responsibility level as a coaching staff. There was a game plan coming in Day 1 of how to get better.”
Kendall kept the same message as Peters Township improved season after season.
Then came the first practice of this season. He looked the banners in the Indians’ gymnasium and told his team something that proved to be prophetic.
“We are going to put a 2019 under the section banner and something else up there on that wall,” Kendall said, referring to a WPIAL championship. “There is a blank spot.”
Hopefully, there are two blank spots.
Peters Township stayed perfect with a 62-49 victory over Garnet Valley in the PIAA Class 6A championship game at the Giant Center on Friday night, becoming the first girls basketball team from Washington County to win a state championship.
The win completes a 30-0 season as the Indians became only the fourth girls team in WPIAL history to win state gold with a perfect record. They did so behind a 29-point performance from Makenna Marisa. Freshman Journey Thompson scored 16 points and Isabella Mills added 14.
The final chapter ended like so many of the previous 29 – with a dominating performance and double-digit victory. Of the Indians’ 30 wins, 26 were by at least 10 points.
They did so against the best in the WPIAL, winning 18 games against teams that qualified for the district playoffs. Throughout the last three weeks, Peters Township did it against the best in the state.
“A couple of times it would jump into your head a little bit and you think we are close to doing this,” Kendall said. “I was filling in the brackets as we went but when we won the WPIAL, I didn’t write in our name. When states came, I wrote in the first game but have since left it alone. I haven’t wanted to think about how far we’ve come. That’s the way I’ve been and we have been.
“Maybe now, I’ll fill it out. Maybe.”
Staff writer Luke Campbell can be reached at lcampbell@ observer-reporter.com