DALLASTOWN -- Gritty defense. Forced turnovers. Back-and-forth scoring.
As expected, the boys' basketball match-up between rivals Dallastown and Red Lion featured all of those elements on Wednesday night.
Even first-year Dallastown coach Mike Grassel felt the game would be an ugly one. His young team is becoming accustomed to winning that way.
Up four with under a minute to play, Dallastown junior Ben Doorn stepped to the foul line after making his previous four free throws in the fourth quarter. This time, though, Doorn's foul shot skipped out and the ball went back to the Lions. Red Lion's Stone McCreary answered with a 3-pointer in the corner to bring the Lions to within one with 46.3 seconds remaining.
Dallastown then gave the ball back to Red Lion on the ensuing possession when Ethan Sutton's pass to Doorn rolled out of bounds with 25.4 seconds left. Red Lion had a chance to take its first lead since the last minute of the first quarter.
Thanks to Dallastown's pesky defense, though, the Lions had trouble getting a good look at the basket until finally finding sophomore guard Austin Huson wide open at the top of the key for a 3-pointer.
"That wasn't a set play or anything," Red Lion coach Steve Schmehl said. "We kind of just kept driving and kicking and he (Huson) got a good look -- a wide-open shot."
But the shot clanged off the rim and the ball went back to Dallastown. The Wildcats escaped with a 39-38 victory to improve to 2-1 in York-Adams Division I and 5-1 overall. Four of those wins have come by single digits.
"We've been in a lot of games and tough ones," Dallastown junior guard Mitch Small said. "When it comes down to the last play, stepping up on 'D' (defense), that's pretty much what it comes down to."
Small scored eight of his game-high 13 points in the third quarter. And he helped Dallastown's suffocating defense cause 15 Red Lion turnovers while the Wildcats coughed it up just seven times. Despite committing 11 of those giveaways in the first half, the Lions (2-1 Division I, 3-2 overall) trailed by just four, 18-14, at intermission.
"That's what I kept saying," Schmehl said. "At halftime I said 'Guys, we can't play any worse but somehow we're only down four points.' I kept looking up. Gosh, we had the ball down one (point) with a chance to win that game. I don't know how it happened. They (Dallastown) didn't shoot the ball very well either. Just everything was hard tonight for some reason."
Dallastown opened up its largest lead of the game, 30-20, in the third quarter before Red Lion closed to within 30-25 heading into the final period. The Lions actually had one last chance to win the game with 0.7 seconds left, inbounding from under the Dallastown basket. But junior Blake Cahill was unable to connect with teammate Mike Fox on a full-court pass.
"A win is a win," Grassel said. "Red Lion played really hard. We played extremely hard. I loved our effort. We knew it was gonna be ugly. It's Red Lion and Dallastown."
Kevin Hutchinson, the Lions' lone senior, scored a team-high 12 points to pace Red Lion.
-- Reach John Walk at email@example.com.