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York County basketball official Kevin Lawrence wears a microphone to show what it's like to be a youth official. York Dispatch

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DALLASTOWN — Heading into the 2019-2020 season, the Dallastown girls’ basketball team was nearly a consensus pick to defend its York-Adams League title.

As the regular season wore down, however, those expectations became somewhat muted.

Coach Jay Rexroth’s squad struggled at times this season, which resulted in a third-place finish in Division I.

That finish, however, was enough to earn the Wildcats and Rexroth a league playoff berth and a chance to defend the Y-A crown.

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Apparently, a chance is all that the Dallastown girls needed.

After winning a defensive struggle against Division II co-champion West York on Saturday evening, the Wildcats found themselves mired in another low-scoring battle on Wednesday on their home court against rival Red Lion.

It certainly wasn’t pretty, but the Dallastown defense stood tall in the second half against the Lions. Red Lion managed just seven points over the final 16 minutes of action. While the Wildcats were only marginally better, they did score enough (18 points) to earn a hard-fought 35-30 triumph.

Dallastown (17-7) will face Gettysburg at 7 p.m. Friday in the Y-A final at York College. Gettysburg beat Central York in the other league semifinal, 34-32.

“Our kids did an unbelievable job defensively in the second half,” Rexroth said. “In the first half, they (Red Lion) made a number of jump shots.”

Lions lose their rhythm: The Lions were able to claim a 23-17 lead at the break because of those baskets. Asia Eames and Julia Beiler scored 12 of their 14 points in the first half, mostly on jumpers.

With those shots not falling in the second half, Red Lion was never able to find a rhythm.

It didn’t help that Dallastown guard D’Shantae Edwards was able to wreak havoc defensively for a key stretch early in the third quarter. Edwards helped create three consecutive turnovers that ended with five Dallastown points on the other end.

“I thought that D’Shantae really changed the whole complexion of the game in the second half,” Rexroth said. “She got a couple of steals near half court which got us started. She’s a special, special kid for sure.”

Red Lion coach Don Dimoff could only shake his head in despair as he watched his team’s six-point lead at the break get erased in the span of less than a minute.

“We were struggling to score,” Dimoff said. “And we tried to make some adjustments and we didn’t react well. Then we made two silly turnovers in a row that let them right back into the game.”

With the Lions mired in a long scoring drought in the second half, a five-point lead (30-25) with just under three minutes left looked secure for the Wildcats. But Beiler hit a jumper before Makiah Shaw, who led the Lions with 12 points, drained a 3-pointer off a Dallastown turnover to quickly even up the score.

Making clutch foul shots down the stretch: Fortunately for Rexroth, both Edwards and Bria Beverly were reliable at the foul line down the stretch. Those two converted on 8 of 10 free throw attempts to help the Wildcats pull away late.

Now the Dallastown girls and Rexroth will have a chance to repeat as league champs Friday, which probably surprised Rexroth himself.

“Do I have to answer that,” Rexroth said with a smile when asked whether he envisioned his team making a third-straight Y-A final earlier in the season. “The whole thing about it was just ‘believe.’ Believe is the last thing we said in the huddle and we have to believe that we can win, and the kids do.”

Red Lion fell to 19-5. Dallastown now holds a 2-1 edge over its rival in the season series, which could feature a fourth matchup in the District 3 Class 6-A playoffs, if both teams can advance to the semifinals.

Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdispatch.com.

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