The Dover girls' basketball team may not collectively be the quickest or tallest or even the most-talented group throughout the York-Adams League.
But there is one thing that can no longer be disputed for Coach Troy Lokhaiser's gang after a heroic performance Saturday night against York Catholic in the league title contest - they are now champions.
Leading by as many as 14 points in the second half over the Irish, the Eagles survived a furious late rally from the Division IV champions. York Catholic twice cut the deficit to a point (55-54 and 57-56) but they could find no answer for Dover standout Alayah Hall. Hall scored a game-high 24 points to go with seven rebounds and five assists to lead the Eagles to a 65-56 victory.
The triumph marked the first York-Adams League title for Dover (21-2) in the program's first-ever appearance in the championship contest.
It also meant that the Dover girls would be able to take home more than just memories from another highly successful campaign.
"The season we had last year (undefeated regular season and a berth into the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs) was certainly a great season," Lokhaiser said moments after cutting down the nets at York College's Charles Wolf Gymnasium. "We wouldn't trade it for anything, but we didn't come out with any hardware. And we talked about that this year as a goal and it all came true tonight."
"This is just great," Hall said. "We never had a chance like this before and this is just a great way to finish off our senior year."
The reality of the new shiny, gold medals they earned after the final buzzer sounded was made good in large part due to a team that may be greater than the sum of its parts. Led by Hall's 17.4 points a game, no other Dover player averages even eight points a contest for the season.
None of that matters, however, as all of Lokhaiser's players know their role and accept it without fail.
"This whole team is 10 girls and we've never had a problem," Lokhaiser said. "They all get along together and they all love to play together. It's a great team."
York Catholic coach Kevin Bankos was left without much doubt about the greatness of Dover after the setback.
"We knew upfront that this was a good, solid basketball team," Bankos said of Dover. "They beat Susquehannock, they only lost twice...they're the real deal."
A lot of attention is focused on Hall, who is the school's all-time leading female scorer. The senior, who leads the team at 17.4 points a contest, was once again sensational nearly every time she touched the ball. She knocked down 7-of-13 shots (54 percent) for the game while sinking 10-of-12 free throw attempts.
"Great players make great plays," Bankos said.
One sequence late in the game proved Hall's value. The Eagles had three chances from the field but missed on all three attempts. That's when Hall grabbed an offensive rebound before knocking down a shot that halted some of York Catholic's late-game momentum.
"That was key," Bankos said. "We got a stop and they missed a shot and they got three extra attempts before Alayah buried it. You can't give a team like that three or four opportunities."
While Hall has been the offensive catalyst for Coach Lokhaiser's club throughout the year, she had plenty of help Saturday. Fellow senior Lindsey Fowler poured in 16 points while junior center Marissa McMahon finished with 10 for the Eagles.
"It just seemed that when Alayah wasn't getting to the basket, Lindsey and Marissa were coming up with some big baskets," Lokhaiser said. "And that's something you need certainly."
Other role players, such as outside shooters Megan Lokhaiser and Holly Fox, came up with big baskets at key times in the contest. Lokhaiser scored all six of her points on back-to-back triples late in the first quarter that turned a 10-8 hole into a 14-10 advantage.
Fox knocked down a shot from beyond the arc that pushed Dover's lead back to five points (25-20) right after the Irish clawed back within two (22-20) midway through the second period.
She did it again moments later after Catholic closed to within 27-24, burying another 3-pointer that ignited a 7-0 run to close out the first half for Dover.
The Irish have been known to fall behind early in big games only to roar back late and Saturday was no exception. After Fowler hit a pair of free throws with 2:47 left in the third period to put Dover ahead by 14 (42-28), York Catholic went with a more aggressive press to get back into the contest.
The Eagles only turned the ball over five times in the first half, but the added pressure resulted in 12 over the final two periods that allowed the Irish to rally.
"I think what happened there was that we didn't see it all game and then all of a sudden they threw it on us," Coach Lokhaiser said. "Maybe we weren't quite ready for that. That's something that we'll have to work on a bit as we want to be able to handle pressure when we see it and I think for most of the year we've done a pretty good job with it."
Just when it seemed like Catholic was ready to take over after getting to within 55-54, it was Hall who proved her might once again by relying on her basketball instincts. On the following possession the senior guard drove towards the basket before finding McMahon inside for an easy layin.
"I just knew that we had to pull it together," Hall said. "I don't really think too much. I just got to keep myself together."
After the Irish got a pair of free throws from Deanna Chesko to cut the lead back to one, Hall drew a foul on the ensuing possession and knocked down both shots.
A couple of York Catholic turnovers proved costly as the Irish were forced to send the Eagles to the line late. Dover responded by hitting 6-of-7 attempts over the final 82 seconds to close out the victory.
Hannah Laslo led the Irish (20-4) with 14 points. Anne Lehr chipped in 10 points as well for York Catholic.
York Catholic (56)
Lehr 4 2-4 10, Chesko 2 5-6 9, Ressler 3 0-0 8, Carroll 2 1-1 6, Demonda 0 0-0 0, Echevarria 4 1-2 9, Laslo 5 4-4 14.
3-point goals: Ressler 2, Carroll. Totals: 20 13-17 56.
Fox 2 0-0 6, Fowler 6 3-3 16, Lokhaiser 2 0-0 6, Hall 7 10-12 24, McMahon 4 2-3 10, Crossan 0 0-0 0, Herman 1 1-2 3.
3-point goals: Fox 2, Lokhaiser 2, Fowler. Totals: 22 16-20 65.
York Catholic 12 12 12 20 - 56
Dover 14 20 10 21 - 65