There’s a saying in life that really hasn’t applied to the York-Adams League girls’ basketball title games in recent years.
The saying: "It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish."
That certainly wasn’t the case a season ago, when Central York stormed out to a 15-0 lead early en route to a 40-19 win over Dallastown in the final.
Thursday evening at York College in the championship contest between Division I rivals Dallastown and Spring Grove, that old adage was inaccurate again.
The Wildcats built an 11-2 lead in the first quarter, which was more than enough to hold off an uncharacteristically cold-shooting night by the Rockets in a 36-26 victory. Spring Grove never got closer than six points after falling behind early.
In its three league playoff victories, Dallastown did not allow more than 29 points in any contest, allowing an average of 24.7 points per game.
The victory earned Dallastown (22-2) its first league title since 2013. The Wildcats now have four league playoff titles overall. Spring Grove was looking for its first league playoff title since 1983.
“Our kids have a way of finding a way to make shots at the right time,” Dallastown coach Jay Rexroth said.
That proved to be the difference.
Both teams struggle to score: The Spring Grove girls, who led the Y-A League in made 3-pointers, failed to convert any of their 11 attempts. Whenever the Rockets (18-7) went inside to try to score, their shots were often rushed in an effort to avoid being blocked by 6-foot, 3-inch forward Aniya Matthews.
“Yeah, it makes it tough,” Rexroth said about Matthews, who led all scorers with 14 points.
As tough as it was on the Spring Grove girls to find the basket, the Wildcats fared only marginally better. The Rockets used a 2-3/1-3-1 hybrid zone that seemed to throw Rexroth’s team out of whack offensively.
“Their zone was tough,” Rexroth said. “We were in that mode where we had (open) 3s and it’s 'do you want to shoot it after two passes or do we want to shoot it after 10 passes?' They weren’t giving us anything inside.”
That forced Matthews outside of the paint a couple of times, and the junior burned the Rockets by hitting a long jumper late in the first quarter. Then she knocked down a 3-pointer with just more than two minutes left in the first half that extended the Dallastown lead to double-figures (20-10).
Edwards emerges: While it is not a big shocker that Matthews was the big threat offensively for the Wildcats, the emergence of point guard D’Shantae Edwards showed up in the biggest game of the season. The freshman finished with nine points, five of them coming in the first half.
“That got me into the game and got me pumped up,” Edwards said of those first-half points. “And for every basket that goes in (offensively), we just turn around (and play) defense.”
The fact that Edwards was running the show for a championship team is a bit of an amazing story in itself. The team expected to have junior Sabria Royal running that position this year, but Royal transferred to York High before the season began, leaving Rexroth and his team in a bind. Edwards had always played forward before she got to high school, so when she was asked if she would make the position change for the team, she was skeptical at first.
“It was scary for me,” she said. “I was a little nervous because going into the season I had a different mindset about what I was going to do. But the girls warmed me up and their confidence in me helped me build my confidence up.”
Perhaps one the biggest lessons throughout the process was in how she responded to failure.
“The girls … they did not let me hang my head at all,” she said. “They picked me back up and they kept the confidence in me that I needed.”
Rockets go cold: While the Rockets aren’t ones to lack confidence themselves, their issue converting shots all night was an obstacle they could not overcome.
“I thought defensively that our game plan worked,” Sowers said. “But we had to make some shots. We were 3-for-21 in the first half and we only scored two points in the third. We didn’t shoot the ball well. We led the league in 3s and we finished with none.”
Ellie Glass was the lone Spring Grove player to reach double figures in scoring with 12 points. Haley Wagman finished with eight for the Rockets.
“I feel good about our effort, but the ball just didn’t go in the bucket,” Sowers said.
The Rockets had just 13 points through the first three quarters.
Districts loom: After both teams played on back-to-back nights for the semifinals and finals, the two programs will be able to rest up and get ready for the onset of the District 3 playoffs next week.
Dallastown earned the No. 2 seed in the Class 6-A draw. That affords the Wildcats a first-round bye. As a result, Rexroth and his Wildcats won’t play again until next Thursday when they will host the winner of the Wilson/Manheim Township first-round contest.
Spring Grove claimed the No. 4 seed in Class 5-A, which has no byes. So the Rockets will host No. 13 Cocalico Tuesday.
Red Lion Christian 48, Carlisle Christian 28: Bailey Sanders collected 32 points and 19 rebounds to power RLC. Hailee Thompson added 11 points and 10 rebounds for the winners.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.