NORRISTOWN -- Kara Funk figured she had played her last game in a Dover girls' basketball uniform.

 

"I trusted our JV players, but you never know," she said after fouling out with 3 minutes left in the Eagles' PIAA Class AAAA first-round game with West Chester Bayard Rustin.

Dover's season began with a 17-point, second-half rally against Hershey.

The Eagles needed to come back from 16 on Friday to keep their season alive.

Funk watched as more of her starting teammates joined her on the bench in those last minutes. That same Hershey team they beat to start the season was in the gym at Norristown Area High School, too, waiting to play its first-round game after Dover and Rustin.

They all watched Alayah Hall, just as she did in December, orchestrate a fourth-quarter stretch that gave the Eagles (26-3) their first PIAA tournament win, 54-53, against Rustin (22-8) of District 1.

"I was surprised. I still can't believe it," Funk said. "I'm taking it all in. I was upset."

A game that began well for Dover, which jumped out to a 9-3 lead and disrupted the Golden Knights with their full-court press, turned sour in the second quarter. Rustin's 2-3 defensive zone stalled the Eagles, who produced nearly nothing. They scored just two points in the second quarter and shot 0-of-8 from the floor. Dover coach Troy Lokhaiser thought his girls were stagnant, standing around and passing the ball.

With Rustin's 6-foot-2 Adashia Franklin anchoring the interior, attacking her wasn't enticing. Franklin's final numbers, 20 points and 21 rebounds, were indicative of her play. Dover's 5-7 Lindsey Fowler, playing more because of a knee injury that sidelined Marissa McMahon before District 3 play, had to guard Franklin much of the game.

"She's undersized every night," Lokhaiser said of Fowler, "but she battles her butt off in there."

The Knights' lead grew to 37-21 late in the third, but when Franklin delivered a hard foul on Hall with 1:32 left in the quarter, Dover's mood changed.

Hall had just charged to the basket, slicing through the defense before she was met by Franklin. She was slow to get up and did not return until the start of the fourth.

When Hall was back, the deficit sat at 12 points. Then 10, when her first 3-pointer of the night answered an inside score from Franklin.

The blow Hall took from Franklin late in the third did not stop her, as she again attacked the basket. A trip to the free-throw line cut Rustin's lead to eight. Another cut it to six, and again to four.

Hall scored a game-high 22 points that included a 15-of-18 night from the free-throw line. She was 7-of-7 in the fourth quarter.

But as she repeatedly reached the foul line, she started losing teammates. First Funk with 3:01 left. Then Maxine Herman on a technical foul -- both coming with the Eagles within 45-44 of Rustin.

If that wasn't enough, Fowler fouled out in the final minute, and Lokhaiser started plucking players he rarely needed during the Eagles' perfect regular-season run that earned them District 3's top seed.

"We talked to those bench players in the locker room at halftime," said Lokhaiser, knowing early fouls could play a role later, "and said if you're on the floor at the end of the game, you have to be ready to go. And they were."

One of them was junior Ashentay Kearse.

Lokhaiser sent her in with 40 seconds left to replace Fowler. The adjustment forced Hall, the lone starter left with just one foul, to guard Franklin. Offensively, Hall put Dover ahead when she drove right off a pick and beat Franklin to draw the foul from another defender. The basketball rolled in, and Hall's final free throw shifted the advantage with 7.5 left.

When Rustin returned from its timeout, it was Kearse who wasn't fooled by a relayed inbounds pass along the baseline when she stepped in front of Knights guard Noelle Powell for a steal. Kearse was fouled by Powell, who gave Dover trouble all night with her 14 points.

"We work a lot on foul shots," Hall said. "I guess that's what we've been practicing for all season."

That's why Kearse, like Hall in the fourth, sank her free throws. Rustin hustled downcourt in the final seconds, but could only manage a layup from Powell to set the final score and allow Dover's celebration to begin. The Eagles will face District 11 champion Nazareth (24-4) on Tuesday in the second round. Host site and tipoff are to be determined.

@mgoul; 771-2045

 
DOVER (54)
   Alayah Hall 3 15-18 22, Funk 2 2-3 7, Herman 2 0-0 4, Fowler 2 0-2 4, Megan Lokhaiser 4 0-0 10, Crossan 1 2-2 5, Fox 0 0-0 0, Kearse 0 2-2 2, Warner 0 0-0 0, Coley 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 21-27 54.
WEST CHESTER RUSTIN (53)
   Noelle Powell 5 4-4 14, Steinmetz 0 0-0 0, Casey Warley 4 5-7 13, O'Hare 2 0-0 4, Adashia Franklin 7 6-15 20, Walls 1 0-2 2, Hoy 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 15-28 53.
Dover   15      2    10      27 -- 54
Rustin   20    11    8    14 -- 53

   3-POINT GOALS: Dover 5 (Lokhaiser 2, Hall, Funk, Crossan), Rustin 0.