HERSHEY -- Playing on the big floor in Hershey has been a dream for the Dover girls' basketball team since the preseason.
After a thrilling overtime victory on Friday night, the Eagles realized their dream Monday evening against Central Dauphin in a District 3-AAAA semifinal contest at the Giant Center. And for the first 16 minutes, it was everything they hoped it would be.
"It was really fun," said junior standout Alayah Hall of the first half.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, it's a 32-minute game.
Dover's four-point halftime lead was erased by the midway point of the third period. Central Dauphin then finished the period on a 10-2 run to take the lead for good. While the Rams played far from perfect in the fourth quarter, Dover just didn't have enough in the tank to make it a game, and the Eagles fell to the Rams, 52-39.
Dover (25-2) will now await the loser of Tuesday's other semifinal between Wilson and Central Dauphin East for a third-place contest on Thursday at a time and location yet to be announced. Central Dauphin (20-5) will play the winner of that contest on Friday night at 8:30 at the Giant Center for the district title.
"We tried our hardest," said Hall, who finished with 11 points.
The story of the game was a forgettable third period for the York-Adams League Division II champs. The Eagles converted on just 2-of-11 shots in a period that the Rams won by a hefty 16-4 margin. Dover wasn't helped much by a slew of miscues. Central Dauphin's pressure helped cause 10 turnovers in the period.
"I think it was our defense," said Rams' coach Karen Hicks. "I think we tired them down. I don't think they were used to that kind of defense for four quarters."
Dover played without center Marissa McMahon for a third-straight game. As a result, Dover coach Troy Lokhaiser only played seven girls. By the second half, the Central Dauphin pressure seemed to cause some problems.
"We didn't go to our bench maybe enough tonight," Lokhaiser said. "But they have a really nice team. They have a lot of pieces on that team."
One of those pieces was a distinct size advantage. The Rams boast three starters who are 5-foot-11 or taller, yet were unable to exploit that mismatch for much of the first half.
The Eagles feasted on their calling card -- their defense -- throughout the first quarter. They built an 18-11 advantage after one period. Dover forced 13 miscues from the Rams in the first half and held a 25-21 lead heading into the break.
While the Rams finished with 13 more turnovers in the second half, the Dover shots in the second half just didn't fall at the same rate they did in the first half. The Eagles knocked down 10-of-21 shots in the first half, but were just 4-of-23 after the intermission.
"We had some good looks in the third quarter," Lokhaiser said. "We just couldn't seem to knock them down."
Kara Funk finished with 10 points for the Eagles, while Maxine Herman chipped in eight.
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.