DALLASTOWN -- Over the past 12 years, there weren't many regular-season games that the Red Lion girls' basketball needed to win.
But with their string of York-Adams Division I titles in jeopardy, the Lions were in such a predicament Wednesday night at rival Dallastown.
Already trailing their neighbors by two games in the division with just five remaining, Coach Don Dimoff's team finally got its biggest victory of the season at just the right time. Led by former Dallastown standout Jenny Horvatinovic, who scored 16 points, the Lions escaped with a 45-44 triumph.
The victory moved the Lions (11-6 overall, 8-3 in Division I) within a game of co-Division I leaders Dallastown (13-5, 9-2) and West York (14-2, 9-2).
More importantly it gave Dimoff's team a much-needed boost of confidence after dropping contests to the Wildcats, Bulldogs and Division II-leading Dover so far this season.
"We needed that," Dimoff said. "And I feel really, really good for the kids. They've been working hard. We've had our ups and downs. They needed a win like that to know they can compete. We've competed with every one but you've got to win."
The Lions' up-and-down season was eerily similar to Wednesday's contest. The Lions trailed by as many as nine points in the second quarter. The deficit was cut to six points late in the half until Horvatinovic was fouled shooting a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left. The Monmouth recruit sank all three shots to cut the lead to three (24-21) at the half.
Red Lion added four more points in a row to start the third period and take its first lead since briefly holding a 9-8 advantage in the first quarter. After Dallastown regained the lead at 31-28 with 1:24 left in the third, the Lions went on a 9-0 run to go up 37-31.
Just when the Lions could start to feel good, however, the Wildcats roared back with a 9-0 run of their own to lead 40-37 with 1:40 left.
That's when Horvatinovic took over. The 6-foot, 1-inch senior scored six of her team's final eight points, including two big free throws with 12.8 seconds left that made it a three-point game (45-42).
"I was happy with both Jenny and Kasey (Seitz) stepping up down the stretch," Dimoff said.
Despite that, Dallastown still had a shot to even up the score in the final seconds with a 3-pointer. Instead of that, though, they got a quick two-point basket by Katie McGowan with about five seconds left.
"We were trying to run a play for a 3," Dallastown coach Mary Manlove said. "We just kind of had a mental lapse as a team."
Without a timeout, the Wildcats were able to foul Red Lion's Taylor Funke with 1.6 seconds remaining. Funke missed the 1-and-1 shot and the home team was unable to get off a shot before the buzzer.
"I told her that I was kind of glad that she missed that," Dimoff said. "I knew with (1.6) left, if we didn't foul them they weren't going to be able to get it from there (the paint) to there (that basket)."
For Horvatinovic, the triumph over her former team was a good dose of revenge after the Wildcats earned a 45-36 victory in their previous encounter. It was also big for her team's psyche after dropping back-to-back games to Eastern York and Dover over the past week.
"I think we crossed that barrier," she said. "I think we sprinted across it."
That was apparent by the reaction of Dimoff, who's led his team to back-to-back District 3-AAAA titles. The veteran coach pumped his fist in celebration several times after the final horn sounded.
"I thought we played well Monday night (against Dover) but we didn't quite come out on the winning side," he said. "So they needed a win like that."
Shannon Thomas led all scorers with 17 points for the Wildcats, while McGowan finished with 12 points. Amari Johnson pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds for Dallastown.
OTHER GIRLS' BASKETBALL
YORK CATHOLIC 60, HANOVER 31: At Hanover, York Catholic led just 25-18 at halftime, but used a 35-14 second-half outburst to roll to the win. Morgan Klunk (18), Courtney Demonda (14) and Hannah Laslo (10) paced the Lady Irish, who improved to 15-1 overall and 10-0 in York-Adams Division IV. Hanover fell to 11-6 and 5-5. Hanover's Soukaina Tracy finished with nine points and 20 rebounds.
KENNARD-DALE 61, BERMUDIAN SPRINGS 44: At York Springs, Sara Tarbert, the leading scorer in the York-Adams League, poured in 25 points to power the Rams. Taylor Davis added a dozen points for the winners, while Katelynn Trott chipped in 11. Mackenzie Farley had 11 points for Bermudian. K-D improved to 12-6 overall and 7-3 in York-Adams Division III.
CEDAR CLIFF 50, YORK HIGH 34: At Cedar Cliff, the Colts jumped out to a 25-12 halftime lead and never looked back in the non-league contest. Chyna Steele scored 23 of York High's 34 points. Jess Butts led Cedar Cliff with 17 points.
DOVER 51, YORK SUB URBAN 30: At Suburban, Marissa McMahon led the unbeaten Eagles to the York-Adams Division II victory by scoring 14 points. Megan Lokhaiser and Alayah Hall each scored 11 points. For the Trojans, Alexis Gettle scored 10 points. Dover improved to 11-0 in the division and 17-0 overall.
SUSQUEHANNOCK 51, SPRING GROVE 48: At Spring Grove, Shannon Druck led the Warriors to the York-Adams Division II victory, scoring 18 points. Katie Wagner scored 13 points for the winners, while Makenzie Fancher knocked in 10 points. For the Rockets, Morgan Arden scored 20 points, while Brooke Osborne scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Susquehannock improved to 7-4 in the division and 12-5 overall.
WEST YORK 56, CEN TRAL YORK 41: At West York, Kari Lankford led the Bulldogs to the York-Adams Division I victory, scoring 15 points. Heather Zinn scored 13 points for the Bulldogs, while Raychel Johnson scored 10. For the Panthers, Sam Sweeney scored 20 points. West York improved to 9-2 in the division and 14-2 overall.
EASTERN YORK 58, LITTLESTOWN 9: At Wrightsville, Elizabeth Myers led the Golden Knights to the York-Adams Division III victory, scoring 22 points. Eastern's Morgan Thomas knocked in 13 points. Eastern improved to 8-2 in the division and 13-5 overall.
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.