The West York girls' basketball team has enjoyed a lot of success over the past few years.
But one thing they haven't done well is start strong.
A pair of opening blowout losses at the hands of York Catholic the last two years had Coach Jon Shultz and his Bulldogs eager to make amends Monday night against another perennial parochial power, Trinity.
And make amends they did.
West York led throughout the contest on their home court, save for a brief tie in the opening minutes. The Bulldogs were tenacious on defense, forcing 23 turnovers. Throw in a 16-0 run that spanned nine minutes, along with a game-high 17 points from Sarah Shearer, and West York made it a wildly successful opener, rolling to a 64-41 victory.
"We wanted to send a message," said senior guard Heather Zinn, who scored six points. "We wanted to start off the season right and we did with a good win."
The Bulldogs were the only York-Adams League girls' team which had yet to play a contest this season, so a big-time clash against the Shamrocks did give Shultz something to worry about.
"We didn't open up over the opening weekend," said Shultz, who has led the Bulldogs to four consecutive PIAA state playoff appearances. "We were a little nervous coming in, but I think we came out and played with great intensity."
While Shultz was disappointed that the series against the Fighting Irish was discontinued this season, he was only more than happy to fit in a Trinity team that has been a mainstay in the District 3 and state playoffs for decades.
This Shamrock squad, however, doesn't have quite the same pedigree as some of their predecessors, especially with just one starter -- Briana Betz-White -- returning from last year's club.
"There's always been that thing with Trinity," said Shultz, whose squad lost in the District 3-AAA title contest three years ago to Trinity before pulling off a first-round shocker of the Shamrocks the following season. "We want to go out and play the best competition and Trinity is a phenomenal program."
While the Bulldogs played a far-from-perfect game, they did execute well in almost every aspect of the game.
The 1-2-2 press defense was effective in forcing 11 turnovers in the first half. That number spiked to 19 after the third quarter. The Bulldogs closed out the third stanza on a 12-0 run.
"We just ran the floor," Zinn said. "We wanted to keep pushing the ball."
That type of pressure has been commonplace during preseason practices, according to Shultz.
"Our practices are so competitive," the coach said. "Sometimes I have to rein it back a little bit because they get at it with each other. But at the end of the day they say 'thank you' for making them better."
One aspect of West York's game that showed dramatic improvement was foul shooting. That was an area of concern last year. But Monday, the Bulldogs were nothing but deadly from the foul line, converting 23 of 26 attempts (88.5 percent).
"I've been preaching that at every practice," Shultz said. "Free throws, free throws, free throws."
Zinn can confirm that message has been delivered.
"We've been working on those a lot at practice," she said with a laugh.
Shearer finished 7-for-8 at the line. Point-guard Kari Lankford, who was tasked with guarding Betz-White all night, scored 12 points, including 6-for-7 at the charity stripe.
Despite constant attention, Betz-White managed to pour in 15 points for a Shamrock team that downed York Catholic 50-45 on Saturday.
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.