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DALLASTOWN — Participation awards are nice, but they are little consolation to earning meaningful achievements.

After a long wait, the York High girls’ basketball team is mighty happy to finally claim something truly significant.

It wasn’t easy, but the Bearcats secured a coveted berth into the York-Adams League playoffs after a 15-year absence on Tuesday night. Led by a 25-point, 18-rebound performance from standout Chyna Steele, York High knocked off a scrappy Dallastown outfit, 52-47, to clinch the No. 3 seed from Division I in the upcoming playoffs.

“I’m really excited,” Steele said. “I just hope we go all the way.”

It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t easy. Despite a down season in which the Wildcats fell to 4-17 overall, the home team hardly played like a struggling team.

York took an 11-point lead late in the first half, only to see Dallastown rally back. A 13-1 run that spanned the end of the second and beginning of the third quarters put the hosts in control. The teams traded the lead a few times over the final 12 minutes, with the Wildcats eventually building a seemingly comfortable 43-35 lead midway through the fourth stanza.

But Steele got some help in getting her team back to even just two minutes later. Mady Redman (10 points, 13 rebounds) scored quick back-to-back buckets before Steele capped off an 8-0 run with a layup with 2:09 left.

Dallastown regained the advantage 46-43 with just more than a minute left before the Bearcats clawed back. Steele scored four straight points to put her team ahead before capping off a 9-1 run to end the game with a pair of free throws with 6.6 seconds left.

“I was nervous for like the whole game,” Steele said. “You just never know what’s going to happen. But we just stayed positive, stayed in the game, and kept our heads up.”

York was able to make most of the comeback from the unlikeliest of place for Coach Larry Corbin’s squad — the free throw line. The Bearcats knocked down 5-of-6 attempts over the final 70 seconds to keep the upset-minded Wildcats at bay.

“It was very stressful,” said Corbin, who may be the Division I Coach of the Year after his team improved to 14-8 overall and 7-5 in Division I. York only won seven games a season ago. “I’ll tell you what, Dallastown is very much improved since the first time we played them. They play really tough defense and they’re well-coached.”

Corbin and his club plan to relax for a day after completing the regular season in style. Corbin is giving his team a day off from practice on Wednesday before they get back to it on Thursday as they prepare to take on Division II champion Susquehannock Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Dallastown.

While the Warriors will be heavily favored, it would be foolish for anyone to dismiss a York High team that is playing winning basketball for the first time in a long time.

“Getting to counties and districts is on every coach’s mind every year,” Corbin said. “But we haven’t done it in 15 years. We have a special group of kids here and they really deserve it.”

Sabrina Stough led the Wildcats with 13 points,. while freshman center Samantha Miller chipped in 10 in the loss.

Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdispatch.com.

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