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It certainly wasn't the prettiest game of the high school girls' basketball season, although the Eastern York Golden Knights weren't apologizing after grabbing a big YAIAA victory on the road.
In a hard fought affair, Eastern York knocked off Dover 53-50 to move in front of the Eagles in the YAIAA Division II standings. Each team entered Wednesday's game with a 5-1 record in league play and were in a three-way tie with Susquehannock for first pace.
The Warriors were also winners Wednesday, taking down Northeastern 67-34, meaning Eastern York and Susquehannock remained deadlocked atop the division while Dover is now a game back.
Eastern plays again Friday at home against Northeastern, while Dover takes the court at West York and Susquehannock visits York Suburban.
"It was huge," Eastern York junior Hannah Myers said of the victory. "We played with so much energy. We worked the ball. We played really well as a team tonight. ... As long as we play as a team — fundamentally. mentally — we usually do OK."
It wasn't exactly a work of art — a fast-paced game that saw both teams play hard, and plenty of whistles blown on both sides of the ball.
Nevertheless, it was the Golden Knights who came out on top between two teams having strong, if not surprising seasons.
Eastern York, under the guidance of first year coach Brad Weaver, got off to an 8-0 start before losing three of their last four games including Monday's 57-38 defeat to Susquehanna Township.
The Eagles have been an upstart team under a first-year head coach of their own, Kevin Glover.
"I thought they did a good job in a hostile environment," Weaver said of his team's performance. "I've been preparing my girls that this was going to be a tough game. I've watched a lot of tape on Dover. I respect them tremendously."
The two teams combined to commit 37 fouls (Dover had 23) and shoot 43 free throw attempts, and the crowd for each side was animated as whistles were blown early and often.
"I think they tried hard to keep it even, because both teams were going so hard," Myers said. "It was a big game for both of us. I mean, it's hard mentally to keep yourself in the game when you pick up three fouls in the third quarter. ... It's really hard to keep a clear head. But I think it also gives teams different looks when you have to play with different players and rely on different people to step up."
Eastern's mission was clear from the get-go: Neutralize the standout sister combination of Rayah and Rajah Fink and make the Eagles' supporting cast step up.
The Golden Knights came out in a triangle-and-two defense, according to Weaver, which forced the ball out of the Finks' hands.
In turn, Gabrielle Coley (18 points) and Alaina Reaver (14 points) stepped up to have solid games for the Eagles.
But the strategy also seemed to flummox Dover, and Rayah Fink fell victim to foul trouble — she had three fouls at halftime and was whistled for her fourth right at the outset of the third quarter and was forced to sit out the entire period. She finished the game with zero points.
"My team started to collapse a little bit. I was too," said Rajah Fink. "We've got to stay and play through it."
Said Myers, "That was huge. I can only imagine how much frustration (Rayah Fink) was going through. For us as a team....We just thought OK, they have one less person. And we just did our best to try and exploit it."
Despite that fact, the Eagles found themselves down just 30-26 at halftime and had opportunities down the stretch of the game to either tie the score or take the lead, yet couldn't get over the hump.
"We had four chances under the last minute-and-a-half," Glover said. "Blew a wide-open layup. That changes things."
Myers led the Golden Knights with 15 points, and was followed by Brooke Lacesa's 13 and Katie Lehman's 12.
Weaver was quick to give credit to Lehman, pointing to her four 3-pointers and solid defensive effort on Rayah Fink.
"Katie played big tonight," the head coach said. "Kate really stepped up for us."
Said Glover, "We'll see them the second time around."
The Eagles and Golden Knights play again Feb. 3, which marks the regular season finale, at Eastern York High School.