So many times this season, Alayah Hall has come up with a big play.
Wednesday night, she came up with them once again to keep the Dover girls' basketball team undefeated.
Sometimes it was a steal. In other instances, it was her fearless drives to the basket -- with an imposing 6-foot-1 sophomore in Dallastown's Amari Johnson usually waiting -- but in the final seconds, Hall's awareness on her missed free throw sealed Dover's 43-40 win.
Hall had just given her Eagles a 41-37 lead when she missed her second free throw with 9.3 seconds left. With only her and three Dallastown players to contend for the rebound, the junior guard raced past the pack of Wildcats, escaped to the perimeter
"I just got excited that the ball came flying back," said Hall, who scored a game-high 14 points in helping the Eagles (14-0, 8-0 YAIAA Division II) win the matchup of division leaders.
The game marked just the beginning of a gauntlet week for both teams. While Dover survived Dallastown (12-3, 8-1 YAIAA Division I), the Eagles must face West York on Friday. The Wildcats, meanwhile, play Division IV-leading York Catholic on Saturday.
That was not lost on Dallastown coach Mary Manlove, who pointed to mental lapses early and late in Tuesday's game.
"I'd rather this happen now than a county playoff or district game," she said. "Thank God it's happening now."
It started with a 7-2 rebounding advantage in the first quarter, as Dover built a 12-4 lead. That difference was the game's largest until Hall's steal midway through the fourth quarter got her to the free-throw line for a 35-30 lead.
Time after time in the fourth, Hall got to that line.
She finished 8-of-14 on free throws with every attempt coming in the fourth. Hall nearly made them three-point plays on numerous trips, only to look back and see the ball rattle in and out of the basket.
"We have a good group. Everybody's contributing right now but certainly, Alayah Hall, on most nights, she brings it," Dover coach Troy Lokhaiser said.
Lokhaiser pulled Hall when she picked up her second foul midway through the first quarter. At the time, Dover led 4-2, with her scoring both of its baskets. When she re-entered with 5 minutes, 38 seconds left in the second, Dallastown had taken the lead with a six-point run.
Hall ended it.
"I didn't really bother me because I can keep my fouls under control if I get a lot," she said.
Hall did so by continuing to force turnovers, pulling down passes rather than trying to poke the ball from an opposing guard. The method worked to the tune of eight Dallastown turnovers in the fourth. The Wildcats had 15 on the night.
They cut down on them after the rough start finding a rhythm that had much to do with Johnson's play on both sides of the court. She finished with 11 points -- second only to Shannon Thomas' 13 -- and grabbed 15 rebounds while blocking five shots.
Johnson's effort -- plus her quickness and wingspan, Hall noted -- added to Dover's challenge in remaining perfect.
"This one certainly was a good win for us," Lokhaiser said. "Just the fact we're in games here like this at Dover is great for us. We have a history here of not having the strongest program all of the time, but for us to be playing in a big game like this is a credit to those girls up in that locker room."
Jenna Jackson 2 0-0 4, Alex Lehman 1 0-0 2, Shannon Thomas 4 3-4 13, Shae Grim 2 2-2 8, Katie McGowan 1 0-0 2, Amari Johnson 2 7-11 11. Totals12 12-17-40.
Holly Fox 1 0-0 3, Kara Funk 3 3-4 10, Lindsey Fowler 1 0-0 2, Megan Lokhaiser 2 2-1 6, Alayah Hall 3 8-14 14, Marissa McMahon 1 0-0 2, Maxine Herman 2 2-3 6. Totals 13 14-23 43.
Dallastown 8 13 4 18 -- 40
Dover 12 9 4 15 -- 43
3-point goals -- Dallastown 4 (Thomas 2, Grim 2); Dover 3 (Fox, Funk, Lokhaiser).
JV score -- Dallastown 27, Dover 8.