It's not often when West York girls' basketball coach Jon Shultz is really upset with his team during a contest.
So when Shultz screamed at his team that its performance in the first quarter of its District 3-AAA home playoff opener against Kennard-Dale was "unacceptable," his team got the message.
The Bulldogs were burned for an uncharacteristically high 21 points by the visitors from Fawn Grove in the opening period. The defense was allowing wide-open shots and easy layups and not creating the turnovers that have been a hallmark of the team over Shultz's tenure.
The chewing out had an immediate effect as the home team returned to its usual form in the second quarter. An 18-4 blitz that was fueled by eight turnovers quickly turned a five-point deficit into a double-digit lead midway through the stanza.
While the Rams did manage to cut the lead to five late in the third period, the Bulldogs' pressure and tempo proved too much for K-D to overcome. Led by 26 points from guard Kari Lankford and 20 more from fellow guard Emily Wood, the Bulldogs downed the Rams, 76-58, on Wednesday night.
The victory moved the No. 2 seed into the quarterfinals Saturday where the Bulldogs will face No. 7 seed Berks Catholic at noon at Milton Hershey High School.
"I think one of the most important parts of our game is defense," said West York senior Jess Noll. "Giving up 21 points is absolutely absurd. We should never (allow) that."
While the Bulldogs were disappointed with the slow start, Kennard-Dale coach Jeff Stratmeyer couldn't have been more proud of how his squad started the game.
"Oh my gosh," Stratmeyer said. "I loved it. To come out like that against a great team like West York ... the girls were making their passes, making shots. It's fun as a coach to see something like that."
Noll, who relished the opportunity to guard K-D standout and York-Adams League leading-scorer Sara Tarbert (26 points, 10 rebounds) for most of the night, knew that Shultz's message didn't fall on deaf ears.
"I knew when Shultz looked at us and said that 'it needs to get going right now,' we stepped up and played the defense that we were supposed to," Noll said.
The Bulldogs surged ahead as a result of their defense as the hosts went on a quick 12-0 run that turned a 23-18 deficit into a 30-23 lead.
The lead grew to 12 points (40-28) late in the first half until the Rams' Taylor Davis (21 points) finished with a personal 5-0 run to make it a 40-33 contest at the break.
Tarbert, a UMBC recruit, managed to cut the West York lead to 49-44 after knocking down the second of back-to-back 3-pointers with about two minutes left in the third quarter.
Making a complete comeback, however, was too steep a climb for the Rams, who got a little worn out, according to Stratmeyer. The Bulldogs responded with an 8-2 run to get the lead back to double digits and were never threatened again.
"We had two goals tonight," Lankford said. "One was to run and two was to cause turnovers, which we did. We knew that when we cause turnovers, that's when we're the best."
K-D finished with 25 turnovers for the night, while West York committed just 11 miscues.
The contest was the final in the storied career of Tarbert, who finished with over 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds over her four years at Kennard-Dale. Having the chance to coach Tarbert was a big honor for Stratmeyer, who couldn't say enough about his standout senior.
"When I saw her in sixth grade I was like 'wow,'" he said. "Every coach dreams of having a player like Sara. You can just count on her to score 10 to 15 points every night and getting her teammates (involved) and rebounding like she does. It's going to be a big hole to fill next year."
-- Ryan Vandersloot can be reached at yorkdispatch.com.