DOVER -- Even after perhaps one of the most important victories in school history, there still remains a sense of emptiness for the Dover girls' basketball team.
With a couple more victories, however, the Eagles may be soon filling the void in the near future.
Coach Troy Lokhaiser's team was on the good side of all the big plays during crunch time against the York-Adams Division I-leading Wildcats on Wednesday night.
The host Eagles took advantage of a critical mistake by the visitors with 12.3 seconds left that gave them possession with a three-point lead.
They stretched the lead to as much as six before a Dallastown 3-pointer at the buzzer ended with the Division II leaders handing the Wildcats a 43-40 setback in a battle of divisional unbeatens.
The victory kept Dover perfect at 14-0, including a sparkling 8-0 mark in the league, while Dallastown dropped to 12-3 overall and 8-1 in divisional play.
"That's what it's about," Lokhaiser said. "This was two good teams going at it hard and the score was an indication of the that. This was certainly a good win for us."
The triumph also moved Lokhaiser's Eagles one win closer to clinching the program's first-ever division title. The Eagles lead second-place Susquehannock (5-3 Division II) by three games with just six contests remaining.
"We talk about that a lot," said junior Alayah Hall. "That's our biggest goal right now -- to get that banner."
Lokhaiser, in his second year at the helm, recognizes the importance of reaching that goal on his program's reputation.
"We don't have that history here," he said. "We haven't had the strongest program here all the time, but certainly for us to be playing in a game like this tonight is a credit to those girls."
Hall, who leads the team with a 15.9 points-per-game average, did so again Wednesday as she poured in a game-high 14 points.
As important as those points were, however, it was a play off a missed free throw that really summarized her team's determination to walk out of their gym winners.
Hall missed the second of her two free throws with 9.3 seconds left and her team up by a 41-37 margin. Despite having no one else in the lane to gather a potential miss, the Wildcats were unable to retrieve the rebound that Hall quickly raced to before finding teammate Maxine Herman. Herman was quickly fouled and made both of her free throws to extend the lead to 43-37 with just 5.2 seconds left.
"I just got excited that the ball came flying back (toward me)," Hall said. "I (saw) it in the air, ran to it, and I got it."
Lokhaiser is well aware of all that Hall brings to his program, but believes that his team is anything but a one-girl show.
"She leads us every night," he said. "And she brings it. But we have a good group. Everybody is contributing right now."
While the Wildcats were right there up until the final buzzer, a moral victory isn't what Coach Mary Manlove and her team were willing to accept after the setback. The only real positive -- besides the outstanding individual play of sophomore Amari Johnson -- was that the loss came in mid-January and not during next month's playoffs.
"Nothing caught us by surprise," she said. "We expected it to be a dogfight. I'd rather that this (loss) happen now instead of a county or district playoff game. We have room to grow and room to learn from this."
Johnson was a force to be reckoned with for the Eagles all night on both ends of the court. She was officially credited with five blocked shots, although she easily altered a number of other shot attempts around her. The 6-foot-1 forward also added 11 points and 15 rebounds in the effort.
"She's such a presence on both ends of the floor," Lokhaiser said. "We talked about her last night at practice. Every time that we drive to the basket, she's there. And (she) just alters everyone's shot. I don't know how many blocks she had. She's a quality player."
Kara Funk pitched in 10 points in the victory for a Dover squad that will host another big contest on Friday night against West York (12-1, 7-1 Division I). That showdown will not only be a matchup of two of the top teams in the league, but also a pairing of the top-rated programs, in regards to District 3 power ratings, in Class AAAA (Dover) and AAA (West York).
"It's big," Hall said with a laugh about Friday's battle. "It should be another good game."
OTHER GIRLS' BASKETBALL
YORK CATHOLIC 73, BERMUDIAN SPRINGS 32: The host Fighting Irish led 20-3 after one quarter and 42-13 at intermission. York Catholic got double figure scoring from Morgan Klunk (18 points) and Hannah Laslo (12) to improve to 7-0 in York-Adams Division IV and 11-1 overall. The Eagles (3-4 Division II, 5-8 overall) were paced by Shannon Kuhn (17 points).
DELONE CATHOLIC 37, KENNARD-DALE 35: At Fawn Grove, Kennard-Dale's fourth-quarter rally came up just short in the crossover game. The Rams, trailing 27-18 after three quarters, outscored the Squirettes, 17-10, in the closing quarter. Abby Sponseller led Delone Catholic with nine points, and Maddie Comly and Julie Mall supplied eight points apiece. Kennard-Dale's Taylor Davis earned game-high scoring honors with 13 points. Sara Tarbert added 10 points for the Rams.
NEW OXFORD 43, SPRING GROVE 32: At New Oxford, the Lady Colonials seized control by outscoring the Rockets, 15-3, in the first quarter. Jensen Sneeringer and Lindsey Miller combined for 23 New Oxford points. Spring Grove's Morgan Arden led all scorers by accounting for half of her team's points.
CEDAR CLIFF 43, YORK HIGH 22: At York High, the Bearcats trailed 24-11 at the half and were unable to make a comeback in dropping the non-league game. For the Bearcats, Chyna Clark led the offense with 12 points.
WEST YORK 54, YORK SUBURBAN 44: At York Suburban, the Bulldogs trailed (35-34) at the end of the third quarter, but rallied to come back and capture the York-Adams League divisional cross-over victory. Sarah Shearer led the Bulldogs' offense with a game-high 20 points. Teammate Emily Wood scored 17 points. For the Trojans, Amanda Woodward scored 15 points, including three from behind the arc. Teammate Alexis Gettle knocked in 10 points. At the charity stripe, the Bulldogs went 16-25, while the Trojans were 7-13. With the victory, West York improves to 7-1 in Division I, and 12-1 overall, while York Suburban falls to 1-7 in Division II and 4-11 overall.
SOUTH WESTERN 48, NORTHEASTERN 43: At Manchester, the Mustangs trailed by one at the half (20-19), but came back to take the lead at the end of three quarters to capture the York-Adams League divisional cross-over victory. Jenna Hoffnagle led the Mustangs' offense with a team-high 16 points. Teammate Amy Spigelmyer knocked in 12 points. With the victory, South Western improves to 3-6 in Division I, and 4-9 overall, while Northeastern falls to 1-7 in Division II, and 5-10 overall.
EASTERN 67, BIGLERVILLE 34: At Wrightsville, the Golden Knights jumped out to a commanding (24-5) lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back. Leah Myers led the Golden Knights' offense with a game-high 15 points. Teammates Krissy Pennell and Morgan Thomas each knocked in 11 points. For the Canners, Olivia Moore scored a team-high 13 points. With the victory, Eastern improves to 5-2 in York-Adams League Division III and 9-5 overall, while Biglerville falls to 3-5 in York-Adams League Division IV and 9-5 overall.
-- Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.