West York’s Kari Lankford fends off York Catholic’s Morgan Klunk, left, and Deanna Chesko during the YAIAA semifinal at Central York High
West York's Kari Lankford fends off York Catholic's Morgan Klunk, left, and Deanna Chesko during the YAIAA semifinal at Central York High School Tuesday, February 12, 2013. West York won 59-54. DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS - KATE PENN (KATE PENN)

Related: Dallastown defeats Dover

Jim Seip: Pair of tough teams to tangle for YAIAA girls' basketball title

More often than not, West York coach Jon Shultz likes to play a psychologist role.

Part of that includes challenging an individual player, telling her it's her night. It could be Emily Wood or Heather Zinn, as it was in the Bulldogs' last two games.

Tuesday night in West York's 59-54 YAIAA girls' basketball tournament semifinal win against York Catholic, Kari Lankford was given that challenge.

"It's your turn," Shultz told his sophomore point guard.

Guard Irish go-to senior Morgan Klunk.

Take a leadership role on offense.

Grab a few rebounds.

Lankford accomplished all of that in helping the Bulldogs (21-3) advance to Thursday night's league championship game against Division I-rival Dallastown, a third meeting after both teams split their regular-season matchups.

"Kari is our engine. She really is," Shultz said. "The way she plays defense with fire, I gave her a challenge to hold Morgan to 15."

Mission nearly accomplished there, as Klunk led York Catholic (21-2) with 20 points. But Lankford, who scored a game-high 22 points, played her role in frustrating the leading scorer on a team that hadn't lost since its season opener.
West York’s Jessica Noll eyes the net against York Catholic’s Zaenna Echevarria during the YAIAA semifinal at Central York High School Tuesday,
West York's Jessica Noll eyes the net against York Catholic's Zaenna Echevarria during the YAIAA semifinal at Central York High School Tuesday, February 12, 2013. West York won 59-54. DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS - KATE PENN (KATE PENN)
The struggle extended to the rest of the York Catholic lineup, as West York built an 11-point, first-half lead.

Going in Lankford studied game footage, particularly of Klunk. She noticed Klunk likes to fake her shot, stutter step and attack from the baseline.

"She's really good at changing her speeds," Lankford said, "so I was ready for that."

The Bulldogs repeatedly attacked the basket from all angles and options. At times it was Zinn slicing to the hoop like she did off one of York Catholic's 11 first-half turnovers. Other times Jessica Noll took her shots inside, like she did with a runner in the final seconds of the half, stretching the Bulldogs' lead to 30-19.

"The first key to our game," Irish coach Kevin Bankos said, "was stop their dribble penetration; their ability to go to the basket. The first half was a layup fest."

It translated to a 14-of-26 shooting performance in those first two quarters for West York.

The success had much to with a quicker step and what Bankos called a fundamentally sound performance. Lankford credited the Bulldogs' practice on ball screens to get to the basket.

"We knew to beat them we had to do that," she said, "and we did."

Bankos' team, meanwhile, shot just 7-of-27 to begin the game and left him almost surprised they trailed by only 11 at halftime.

West York’s Heather Zinn looks to the net against York Catholic’s Morgan Klunk during the YAIAA semifinal at Central York High School Tuesday,
West York's Heather Zinn looks to the net against York Catholic's Morgan Klunk during the YAIAA semifinal at Central York High School Tuesday, February 12, 2013. West York won 59-54. DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS - KATE PENN (KATE PENN)

That changed quickly in the third quarter, as York Catholic cut the deficit to four. The score was down to 37-32 when Lankford buried her second 3-pointer after a West York offensive rebound. She scored again off an offensive board a few possessions later as part of a personal 7-2 run.

Emily Wood, who sat with early fouls, added to her fellow sophomore's performance and attacked the basket, weaving past defenders for two of her 10 points. Soon after in the fourth quarter, West York's lead grew back to double digits, but York Catholic had one last run.

The closest the Irish got was 52-49 before Wood broke to the basket with 58 seconds left and adjusted in mid-air to shake off a defender and essentially seal the Bulldogs' spot in the league title game.
@mgoul; 771-2045
  

WEST YORK (59)
   Emily Wood 4 2-2 10, Raychel Johnson 2 01 5, Kari Lankford 8 4-4 22, Jessica Noll 4 1-2 9, Heather Zinn 6 1-2 13, Alyssa Krepps 0 0-0 0, Kelly Slagle 0 0-0 0. Totals 24 8-11 59.
YORK CATHOLIC (54)
   Amelia York 3 0-0 6, Deanna Chesko 1 0-0 3, Zaenna Echevarria 5 0-0 12, Morgan Klunk 9 1-6 20, Hannah Laslo 4 5-6 13, Marissa Ressler 0 0-0 0 Emma Keffer 0 0-0 0, Katie McNamara 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 6-12 54.
West York   20  10  14  15 -- 59
York Catholic   13    6  17  18 -- 54
   3-point goals -- West York 3 (Lankford 2, Johsnon); York Catholic 4 (Echevarria 2, Chesko, Klunk).