HARRISBURG -- Central Dauphin was a nasty opponent for the Red Lion girls to face in the first round of the District 3 Class AAAA tournament.
The Rams are tall and lanky -- difficult to deal with in the paint and on the perimeter. They are fast and pass the ball extremely well. And let's not even discuss rebounding -- something Lions coach Don Dimoff knew was going to be problematic.
Of course, Red Lion showed no signs of giving up, even when down by 16 with 2:25 remaining in the game. The Lions miraculously cut the Rams lead to three but fell just short as Central Dauphin advanced to the second round behind a 55-51 victory.
Lion junior Morgan Kuehne hit three free throws with 17 seconds left, capping a 13-point run that cut a one-time 54-38 Rams lead to 54-51.
Red Lion got the quick foul it needed, but Precious Martin hit the second of two free throws before Courtney Dimoff's 3-point attempt rolled around the rim and time expired after Central Dauphin pulled down the rebound.
The No. 4 Rams improved to 18-5 and move on to face Manheim Township (20-2), which defeated Dallastown on Tuesday night. The 13th-seeded Lions' season ended with a 16-9 record.
"It's pretty devastating," Jenny Horvatinovic said of the earliest playoff exit in her Red Lion career. "I am definitely proud of the way everybody played. We fought back every time we got down. We didn't quit. That is this team."
"I was proud of the way they fought and never gave up," Dimoff said of his team. "We need to rebound better and make better decisions at the beginning of the first quarter and the beginning of the third quarter.
"That's a really good team. The key to it is playing a little better in the regular season so you don't have to face them this early. District 3 is probably the best district in the state this year, so you are going to have to play somebody eventually."
Horvatinovic led all scorers with 18 points. The senior canned a 3-pointer and a jumper 35 seconds apart that started the comeback.
Courtney Dimoff (12 points) nailed a 3-pointer, officially making it a game again, and after each team failed on a possession, Horvatinovic's jump shot with less than 30 seconds to play set the stage for Kuehne.
Twin towers Shatara Parsons (6-foot-1) and Amanda Stouffer (6-2) combined to score 16 of the Rams 28 first-half points. Parsons finished with 16, and Stouffer 10, with each pulling down nine rebounds.
"I thought we played with them every bit and did a heck of a job for 22 of the 32 minutes of the game. Against a team like that, you've got to do it for 32 minutes," coach Dimoff said. "They really hurt us on the boards -- as hard as we tried. They are just long and athletic. It wasn't for lack of effort. That offensive rebounding, they have done that to a lot of teams."
The Rams posted a 42-31 rebounding edge for the game.
Although down by as much as 11 in the first quarter, and 22-14 early in the second, the Lions kept with Central Dauphin, and when Kacey Seitz knocked down a 3-pointer as the first-half clock expired, Red Lion took a 29-28 lead to the locker room.
"We prepared at practice for this, unfortunately we couldn't win. I couldn't be more proud of the team," Seitz said moments after closing her high school career. "I am very pleased. I couldn't have asked for a better program."
RED LION (51)
Seitz 2 0-0 5, Kuehne 2 5-5 9, Horka 0 0-0 0, Kendrick 0 0-0 0, Clever 3 0-0 7, Courtney Dimoff 5 0-0 12, Jen Horvatinovic 8 0-1 18. Totals 20 5-6 51.
CENTRAL DAUPHIN (5)
Weaver 0 0-0 0, Amanda Stouffer 4 2-4 10, Shatara Parsons 8 0-2 16, Hatcher 4 0-0 8, Davis 3 2-3 8, Pre. Martin 3 1-5 7, Pe. Martin 0 0-0 0, Lesko 2 2-3 6. Totals 24 7-17 55.
Red Lion 12 17 5 17 -- 51
Central Dauphin 20 8 12 15 -- 55
3-point goals -- Red Lion 6 (Dimoff 2, Horvatinovic 2, Seitz, Clever).