It's one of the reasons West York girls' basketball coach Jon Shultz puts his team in this kind of winter tournament.
He wants his squad to be tested early in the season.
Facing Manheim Township in the first round of the York Suburban Tournament on Thursday night, the Bulldogs received a tough challenge from a talented Blue Streaks club that entered with a 6-1 record.
Considered one of the preseason favorites to win the Lancaster-Lebanon League title this year, Manheim Township looked imposing on the floor with 6-foot, 3-inch junior center Alexandra Leslie and 5-9 senior forward Ebonee Pompey protecting the paint.
But the Bulldogs weren't afraid to attack the paint on offense. And they certainly weren't shy about pressuring the ball on defense, using a stifling half-court trap to eventually pull out a 49-46 win that went down to the wire.
With the victory, West York (6-0) remained unbeaten and advanced to the tourney title game, where it will face York Suburban on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.
The Trojans (3-5) defeated Lancaster Mennonite (3-5), 41-34, in the second of the two games at York Suburban High School on Thursday night.
Bulldogs: Leslie (12 points) and Pompey (11 points) combined for 13 of Manheim Township's 26 first-half points to help the Blue Streaks jump out to a 26-19 lead, their largest of the game, with under three minutes to play in the first half.
That's when West York's half-court trap kicked in. The Bulldogs forced four turnovers to close out the first half on an 8-0 run and led 27-26 at intermission. Manheim Township finished with 29 turnovers to West York's 17.
"Being as big as they were, using our full-court press, they beat us a lot in the full court but our half-court trap they had a lot of problems with, specifically in that second quarter. (That) gave us a lot of our run," Shultz said.
West York used the momentum to open up its largest lead of the night, 38-25, with 2:25 to play in the third quarter before Manheim Township closed to within 37-34 going into the final quarter.
The Blue Streaks took back the lead, 39-37, with 5:15 remaining on a layup from 5-10 senior forward Alex Ross (11 points). But the Bulldogs answered with an 8-2 run over the next three minutes to go up 45-41 with 2:14 to play.
"We practice situations like that where teams come back," West York sophomore guard Kari Lankford said. "So we knew we could keep doing what we do well."
Lankford, who scored a game-high 16 points, later stepped to the line to drain a pair of free throws with 30.4 seconds left to extend West York's lead to three.
Manheim Township had one last chance when Ross fired a potential game-tying three from the elbow as time expired, but the shot rolled in out to give West York the win.
"This is one of the closest games we've had all year," Shultz said. "Tonight was good to get that adversity and see how you react to it. I think we did a decent job. It's one of the biggest teams we'll see all year long."
Trojans: The Trojans used their version of pressure defense to force 26 Lancaster Mennonite turnovers and capture the victory over Mennonite. Leading 20-16 at half, Suburban later went up 30-20 with a little over four minutes to play in the third quarter and didn't look back.
Trojans' senior forward Amanda Woodward scored a team-high 11 points while junior guard Bethany Spencer chipped in nine points and teammate Alexis Gettle added eight points.
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.