Red Lion girls' basketball rallies past Dallastown in rivalry clash

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

RED LION — In reality, it hasn’t been all that long ago for the Red Lion girls’ basketball team.

In their minds, however, it has been an eternity.

After getting swept by rival Dallastown last season, the Wildcats won the first matchup over the Lions this season as well. That's just three games in total, but that was way too many for Red Lion coach Don Dimoff and his squad.

On Friday night, the Lions were able to earn the satisfaction that only comes with beating their backyard rivals on the basketball court. It wasn’t easy — the Lions trailed through the first three-plus quarters of action — but playing on their home court, the Red Lion girls rallied late to claim a 38-33 triumph.

Red Lion celebrates against Dallastown during their girls basketball game in Red Lion on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. The Lions beat the Wildcats 38-33.

Dimoff’s girls screamed and yelled in joy in a team huddle after the final buzzer sounded before doing more of the same in their locker room shortly thereafter.

“It’s been a while since we’ve beaten them,” Dimoff said. “In fact, I don’t even know the last time we beat them. But I know one thing … every single time we play them it’s an absolute war.”

That last taste of victory happened just under two years ago, when the Lions scored a 48-27 win in late February during the pandemic season in 2021. Many of this group's girls were not yet on the varsity roster, so this was a new feeling.

“We just went out there and did what we were supposed to do,” Red Lion forward Bhrooke Axe said. “It was very loud (in the locker room). Just a lot of celebration because of the rivalry, but also because we put ourselves in a good position for the postseason.”

Combined with York-Adams Division I leader Central York’s 43-26 victory over York High on Friday, the Lions (12-6 overall, 6-3 D-I) appear likely to clinch a top-three finish in the division, which would also earn them a berth into the league tournament next month. The Panthers still sit atop the standings at 15-1 (8-1), while Dallastown dropped to 10-7 and 5-3. The Bearcats, who defeated the Wildcats on Monday, fell to 13-5 (4-5).

For most of the night, it appeared as if the Wildcats would once again hand the Red Lion girls a bitter setback. Dallastown took the lead early and maintained it throughout the first three periods of play, leading 28-27 heading into the final stanza.

“They would get out and extend the lead to six and we would cut it to one,” Dimoff said. “And then they pushed it back to six and we fought back to either one or two again. We just kept plugging along and finally made some shots.”

Red Lion against Dallastown during their girls basketball game in Red Lion on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. Red Lion succeded Dallastown 38 -33. Shane Bahn - For The York Dispatch

Just a minute into the fourth, the Lions took the lead when guard Brooke Carr hit a jumper from the free-throw line to put the Lions up 29-28. The advantage remained between one and three points until 2:29 left in the period with the Red Lion girls ahead 32-31.

After extending the lead to 34-31, the Lions received some good fortune as Dallastown guard Haley Jamison’s 3-pointer from the top of the key rimmed out. Shortly thereafter, the Wildcats had two players — Maggie Groh (nine points) and Praise Matthews (three points) — foul out of the contest.

Clearly disappointed, Dallastown coach Jay Rexroth is just glad his team’s rigorous schedule over the past seven days will lead to some much-needed time off. The Wildcats played last Friday at Susquehannock, Saturday in Chambersburg against a physical Woodland Hills team, Monday against York High, and Wednesday when they handed Central its first defeat of the season before playing a fifth game in seven days against the Lions.

Dallastown's head coach, Jay Rexroth, during the girls basketball game in Red Lion on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. Red Lion succeded Dallastown 38 -33. Shane Bahn - For The York Dispatch

“I’m not going to lie to you — our kids are tired,” Rexroth said. “But they put up a great effort. I give them a ton of credit for coming into this place here where it’s tough to beat those guys. We were one three-point shot that was like 90% down and rattles out. Breaks … that’s the way they go.”

Axe led the Lions — who won despite converting just eight of 21 free throw attempts (38%) — with 12 points, the only player to reach double figures Friday. Kamauri Gordon-Bey chipped in nine points, while Grace Masser and Tatiana Virata each finished with seven.

In addition to Groh’s nine points, the Wildcats got seven points apiece from McKenna Kelley and Kiara McNealy.