SPRING GROVE -- No one would blame Kennard-Dale senior Taylor Davis for being a little nervous before her team's contest against Spring Grove Wednesday night.
Davis, after all, drew the seemingly thankless task of guarding Rocket standout Morgan Arden for much of the night.
As tough as that job was, Davis drew praise from K-D coach Jeff Stratmeyer after holding Arden to 12 points, or 10 below her 22.1 average. Throw in a 27-point, 12-rebound performance from York-Adams League leading-scorer Sara Tarbert, and it turned out to be a welcomed 44-37 non-league victory for the Rams.
"I knew she was a main scorer," Davis said. "I wasn't helping at all. I was going to face-guard her and stop her from getting the ball and stopping her from shooting."
The Rams, who entered the contest having dropped four of their past five games after a 7-0 start, raced out to an early 9-0 lead with less than two minutes remaining in the first period. Getting that early lead was definitely a sight for sore eyes for Stratmeyer, who saw his team dig early deficits in losses to Eastern York, Dallastown and Susquehannock (twice) during the recent tailspin.
"We've been having some slow starts recently," he said. "So that was real nice to get a quick start for a change."
It helped that the Rams held Arden, who entered the game as the league's second-leading scorer, without a shot for much of that time frame.
"I was just so proud of (Davis)," Stratmeyer said. "That was what we wanted to do. She came in with the goal of shutting down Morgan and collapsing in the lane, because (Arden) drives in the lane really well."
While the Rockets had a similar goal of limiting the UMBC-bound Tarbert, achieving that was easier said than done. Tarbert scored seven of her team's first nine points. She knocked down 11-of-17 shots for the night.
"She has the ability to (take over a game)," Stratmeyer said. "It's nice to see her step up and take control like that."
Tarbert, however, has shown a tendency to try to get her teammates more involved recently. With teams double- and, yes, even triple-teaming her at times, Tarbert is well aware that such tactics leave her mates unguarded.
"If I think I have it, I will try taking it," Tarbert said. "But if not, I try passing it off. I mean, I'm expecting it, so I try to stay under control with it."
Tarbert got off to a hot start shooting, and pointed to that as a big factor in helping her take more control offensively.
"If I start slow, I can get like, 'I don't want to shoot,'" she said. "Because, if I start missing, I don't want my teammates to think I'll keep shooting the ball. So it helps if I start out strong, because that will carry me throughout the entire game."
Even with Arden's troubles and Tarbert's offensive prowess, it never was a cake-walk for the Rams. K-D turned the ball over 27 times, which allowed the home team to keep the game close. The Rockets (5-6), who defeated the Rams twice a season ago, even had a chance with under a minute left to turn things into a one-possession contest, but the visitors responded defensively with a blocked shot, a defensive rebound and a steal to close it out.
While it wasn't pretty, Stratmeyer will gladly accept the final result -- a victory over a tough rival. That isn't to say that he's unaware of his team's trouble spots.
"(Turnovers) are something that we're still working on," Stratmeyer said. "But it's goals at the end of the season, and we're working towards them. As long as we keep improving, I'm happy with that."
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.