DALLASTOWN — Both the Dallastown and Susquehannock girls' basketball teams were looking to get 2019 off to a good start on Wednesday night.
The Wildcats, who were the preseason favorites to capture the York-Adams Division I title, are sitting at 2-1 in division play, just below a trio of 3-0 teams in the standings.
After handing rival Kennard-Dale its first loss of the season before the Christmas break, the Warriors find themselves tied for the Division II lead with a surprising Gettysburg squad at 4-0 in the division.
To no one’s surprise, Wednesday’s Wildcats-Warriors clash at Dallastown High School lived up to its hype.
Trailing for much of the contest, the visitors from Susquehannock held a lead with just more than two minutes remaining.
The Wildcats, however, rallied back behind their two bigs, Sam Miller and Aniya Matthews. Miller knocked down a 3-pointer to put her team ahead by two. Moments later on an in-bounds play, the Wildcats found Matthews open in the paint. The 6-foot, 3-inch junior converted a nifty reverse layin to double the advantage to four points with just more than a minute left.
Susquehannock had their chances after drawing within two with under 40 seconds left, but Miller and Lily Jamison iced the game at the foul line in a thrilling 44-42 Dallastown triumph.
“This just feels really good,” said Miller, who finished with a team-high 13 points. “It’s a good team win. They’re a really good team, a district (championship) level team. We just hit plays when we needed to.”
Adjusting to Warriors' zone: Dallastown coach Jay Rexroth was impressed with the way his team handled Susquehannock’s style, which included mostly a 2-3 zone in an attempt to neutralize the size advantages of Matthews and the 6-foot, 1-inch Miller, who is committed to St. Francis (Pa.) next season.
“We knew we had a size advantage inside, it just took us awhile to get used to (their zone),” Rexroth said. “We struggled a little there in the first half and their zone was good. I thought we had lots of open looks on the perimeter, we just didn’t make a lot of them, except for Sam hitting some (3-pointers) there.”
The size of Matthews led to four easy points for the Wildcats (7-2) in the second half. The junior was able to reach above the defenders for a pair of lob passes into the post, which she converted for layins each time.
Sloppiness plagued Warriors: Susquehannock coach Dave Schreiner, however, was pleased with his defense. It was some rather uncharacteristic sloppy ball-handling on the offensive side of the ball, however, that concerned the veteran coach the most.
“We had some turnovers there, and ones at key times in the game,” he said. “And you can’t turn the ball over like that. We had the lead by one and I think I called a timeout and told the kids to just work the basketball. And I think we just tried to force things in a little bit and we ended up turning it over.”
Final chance: The visitors still had a chance to draw even with under 30 seconds left in regulation after Miller missed the front-end of a one-and-one opportunity. Jaden Walker grabbed the miss and drove all the way into the paint before missing a layin with 10 seconds left.
Forced to foul, the Warriors (8-2) watched as Miller and Jamison hit two free throws that stretched the lead to four before Walker hit a jumper at the buzzer.
Schreiner left two timeouts in his pocket. The coach, however, defended the decision to allow his senior standout to try to draw his team even.
“Jaden had a good look,” he said. “But instead of going up strong to try to score she just kind of was hoping to draw a foul. So, yeah, I could have called the timeout, but I just thought it was better to let her do her thing and see if we could get anything out of it.”
Closing in on 1,000: Walker’s final basket of the night gave her 11 for the contest. Entering play she was just 27 points shy of 1,000 for her career. It’s a milestone that both she and Schreiner are hoping to reach Friday when Susquehannock takes on Gettysburg with first-place in the division on the line.
Friday will also be a big night for Rexroth and the Wildcats, who will host Spring Grove. The Rockets are one of three 3-0 teams in Division I along with South Western and Central York.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.