HERSHEY — When the Dover girls' soccer team played in the District 3 semifinals this fall, they could have used a player like Alayah Hall. Without Hall on the pitch, the York-Adams League soccer champion Eagles fell to heavily-favored Cumberland Valley on that day.
Maxine Herman, who was honored as a Co-Player of the Year in soccer, remembers that night all too well.
Fortunately for Herman, she was granted a rare chance to sort of make amends for that defeat Tuesday night at the Giant Center. That's where her Dover girls' basketball team faced — drum roll, please — a heavily-favored Cumberland Valley squad in the District 3-AAAA basketball semifinals.
Only this time she had Hall along her side.
Despite falling into a double-digit hole early in the first period, Dover had Hall, the school's all-time leading female scorer, to come to the rescue.
Held to just four points in the first half, Hall exploded for 18 of her game-high 22 points in the second half as the York-Adams League champs (24-2) pulled off a resounding 45-38 upset victory in Hershey. The triumph earned Herman, Hall and company the school's first-ever appearance in the district finals Friday night back in Hershey at 8:30 p.m. against Wilson.
"This was a special night for us," Dover coach Troy Lokhaiser said. "So emotional. Our first trip ever to a district finals for these girls. Coming as far as we did last year and to get a taste of it (playing) here (at the Giant Center) and to come back the next year and get here is...I can't describe it."
While it was another big game for Herman's teammates, getting a slice of payback against Cumberland Valley was extra sweet for the senior standout.
"Yes," Herman said with a smile. "Yeah, definitely. I didn't recognize if any (of their girls played soccer), but at least it's a bit of revenge for the school. I wanted to go at it hard tonight. We played our hearts out."
Things didn't look too good for Dover early on as the CV Eagles started the game on fire from the field. The Mid-Penn Conference champs knocked down 6 of 7 attempts from the onset to race out to a 14-3 advantage.
"My heart definitely did sink," Herman said. "It did kind of look like it was the end there. But then I thought that it (was) just the first quarter."
The Dover Eagles rallied back, much as they've done on several occasions already this season, with an 8-0 run to end the period to draw to within 16-13. That run was fueled in large part by back-to-back 3-pointers from Megan Lokhaiser.
"Once we got those (eight) straight points I knew we were going to be in it until the finish of the game," Herman said. "Megan can shoot the ball well so that definitely helped us out a bit."
CV, however, responded back in kind in the second stanza. The Mid-Penn champs owned much of the play as they outscored Dover by a 12-6 margin to take a 28-19 advantage into the break.
"They shot the ball well to start the game," Coach Lokhaiser said. "They put us in a hole to start the game. And we talked about that at halftime. We kind of rallied on (what happened) last year where in our first state playoff game we were down 17 points. And we came back and won that game and these girls remembered that."
No lead is safe with Alayah Hall still on the court and the CV Eagles became the latest team to find that out the hard way. Working perhaps as hard as she has all year for points, Hall muscled her way to the foul line time and time again in the third quarter. The senior standout knocked down all seven attempts from the line en route to 11 points for the stanza to put Dover ahead by a 36-35 clip heading into the final quarter.
"She's a great player," Herman said of Hall. "We're definitely lucky to have her on our team."
Hall was only half the story as the Dover defense stepped up big after the break. CV managed just nine points in the third period, or two less than Hall had by herself. The Mid-Penn champs also turned the ball over 20 times for the contest, 12 of which came after the break.
"The third quarter just fell our way," Coach Lokhaiser said. "We did some good stuff in that third quarter to get us right back into it."
Hall continued her blitz with a pair of baskets to open the fourth period to help Dover extend the lead to 40-35 with five minutes remaining.
Kelly Jekot drained a triple — which was CV's only basket of the final period — from the left-wing to draw CV within a basket at 40-38. But with the Dover defense standing tall and CV's shots failing to fall, the York-Adams League Eagles were the ones to celebrate a historic victory.
"This means the world to us," said Hall, who recorded a double-double with 11 rebounds as well. "We've never done this before. We got knocked out (at the Giant Center) last year, so this is the best feeling."
Now Lokhaiser will have to get his team prepared for a chance to earn more hardware Friday night against another state-ranked squad in Wilson. The Bulldogs earned their way to the finals after ousting No. 1 seed Manheim Township Monday.
"We know they're very good," he said of a team ranked in the top 10 in the latest Harrisburg Patriot-News state rankings. "They have, what, four Division Is? And I'm not sure that we have any. But I'm going to tell you that we're going to come and play our hearts out. And that's all that I can ask out of these kids."
—Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.