York, PA -
For all the ups and downs during this Red Lion girls' basketball season, Jenny Horvatinovic thought Wednesday night was a breakthrough moment.
The Lions (11-6, 8-3 YAIAA Division I) entered their game against rival Dallastown with back-to-back losses. They also needed a win to keep their shrinking hopes alive to win another division title -- something that's happened 11 straight seasons since the YAIAA expanded to four divisions.
But here they were Wednesday, trailing by two games in the standings to begin the second half of the division schedule and Horvatinovic the only returning starter from a year ago. It was her points they ultimately to take the lead and beat the Wildcats, 45-44.
Having experienced tests earlier against Dallastown, West York and Dover -- all losses -- the Lions had little to show against their toughest league opponents with a mostly new team.
"There's a barrier they have to cross. That's just something that has to happen," Horvatinovic said, but after Wednesday, "I think we sprinted across it."
Dallastown (13-4, 9-2) provided enough of them.
The Wildcats jumped out to a 17-9 lead with a 10-point run that stretched into the second quarter. They controlled the rebounding game -- thanks much to sophomore Amari Johnson's 10 first-half rebounds --and were precise in their shooting.
Shannon Thomas had much to do with that. She drained three of her four 3-pointers in the first quarter. She also scored 12 of her game-high 17 points in that quarter.
"The smarter team won tonight."
That team did so by protecting the basketball. While forcing Dallastown into 19 turnovers, the Lions committed only eight. They had just one in the fourth.
The pressure-packed situation that turned into a win was something Red Lion coach Don Dimoff said his team surely needed.
"They've got to get what I call that fighter's mentality a little bit," Dimoff said. "They're starting to get that."
Against Dallastown, it started with chipping away at the Wildcats' early run. They cut it to two, and Horvatinovic pulled her team within 24-21 at halftime by hitting all three foul shots after she was fouled on a late 3-point attempt. The momentum continued into the third quarter, and one of those players will little to no varsity experience provided a punch.
Freshman Courtney Dimoff, the coach's daughter, gave the Lions their first lead with 6 minutes, 19 seconds to go in the third. The teams battled back and forth into the final quarter. A 9-0 Red Lion run was answered with a seven-point Wildcats run, and Dallastown held a 40-37 lead with 2:40 left when Johnson put back a driving attempt inside by Thomas.
Then the mistakes again haunted Dallastown. A travel call led to a methodical Red Lion possession, culminating with Horvatinovic's go-ahead jumper with about a minute left. At the time, Dallastown still had fouls to give and used them. With 28.3 seconds left, Kasey Seitz finally went to the free-throw line for Red Lion with a one-and-one.
She hit both, stretching the Lions' lead to three points. Up by just one again, after Dallastown's Katie McGowan answered, Horvatinovic found herself in a one-and-one situation.
She, too, hit both for the last of her team-high 16 points.
"If you miss the first, then you miss both of them," Horvatinovic said.
But beating Dallastown after missing in their first meeting has given her team hope.
RED LION (45)
Jenny Horvatinovic 5 6-7 16, Morgan Kuehne 3 0-0 6, Devan Horka 1 0-0 2, Kasey Seitz 2 2-2 6, Courtney Dimoff 3 1-2 8, Kelsey Clever 1 0-0 2, Taylor Funke 1 0-1 2, Julia Kendrick 0 0-0 0, Marissa Ness 1 0-0 3. Totals 17 9-12 45.
Shae Grim 2 3-4 7, Amari Johnson 2 0-0 4, Alex Lehman 0 0-0 0, Jenna Jackson 1 2-2 4, Shannon Thomas 5 3-7 17, Katie McGowan 3 6-8 12, Kaitlyn Small 0 0-1 0. Totals 13 14-22 44.
Red Lion 9 12 12 12 -- 45
Dallastown 16 8 7 13 -- 44
3-point goals -- Red Lion 2 (Dimoff, Ness); Dallastown 4 (Thomas 4).
JV score -- Red Lion, 36-28.