A season of obstacles has been one of overcoming them for the West York girls' basketball team.

First, the Bulldogs moved up to Division I in the YAIAA. Then, they lost go-to senior forward Sarah Shearer, not once but twice midway through the season. Tuesday night, they ended Red Lion's run of 12 straight division titles by beating the Lions, 59-50, on their home court in the regular-season finale.

No small task, West York (19-3, 13-2) avoided a three-way split for the division with the Lions and Dallastown by finding a new go-to scorer in sophomore guard Emily Wood.

Not to say Bulldogs coach Jon Shultz was surprised. He challenged his young-but-already experienced 5-foot-4 playmaker a little more than two weeks ago. He wanted her to take a greater control of the offense, even shoot more, and play with the vigor more likely to come from a senior.

He got it from her Tuesday, as Wood scored a career-high 36 points.

"I was little off for a couple of weeks," Wood said, "but he challenged me and said I needed to step it up."

That meant keep taking shots if they are not falling.

Perhaps that's why Wood was able to pull away 11 rebounds, using her quickness to overcome her height disadvantage when attacking the rim for a loose ball. It transitioned to the offensive side, where she was able to get around Red Lion defenders in half-court sets. Many times, she found herself open to take the jump shot. Some other times, she went at the basket and found success.

By the fourth quarter, that mindset played a role in her 10-of-10 shooting from the line -- all in that final period.

"If you get them right in a row, it's a lot easier," said Wood, who hasn't missed a free throw since Jan. 30 vs. South Western. "When you're feeling it, you're feeling it."

In her case, it could not have come at a more important time.

West York’s Kari Lankford blocks a shot by Red Lion’s Kasey Seitz. The Bulldogs won, 59-50.
West York's Kari Lankford blocks a shot by Red Lion's Kasey Seitz. The Bulldogs won, 59-50. (Daily Record/Sunday News - Kate Penn)

The Lions (15-7, 11-4) never led by more than three points all night. A back-and-forth game into the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, Wood put the Bulldogs in charge for good when she scored nine straight points and pushed their lead to 52-42.

"When a player catches on fire and she's feeling it, we continually try to get our guards the ball," Shultz said. "That's one of the things that's going to help us along the way in the playoffs. We've been working on it in practice a lot."

Shultz pinpointed a Jan. 18 loss at Dover as the turning point when he challenged those guards, Wood in particular. However, it wasn't until Tuesday that he said the difference truly took form.

"I think we've been waiting for this," said Shultz, whose team won seven straight games that included a pivotal victory vs. Dallastown and ended with a loss to Central Dauphin, which is ranked ninth in District 3 Class AAAA. "Even though Dallastown was a good game, the intensity wasn't necessarily like this game. One thing I talk to them before the game and in practice is, 'I know what you're capable of: To pull together as a team and play hard, to overcome adversity, to get away from that crutch."

The pain that made for that crutch, which was first an ankle sprain and then a ruptured ACL for Shearer, came in each of the Bulldogs' two YAIAA losses.

Shultz could sense his players feeling sorry for themselves. He saw missed layups against Northeastern, the first game they knew Shearer wouldn't return. But slowly, that feeling went away.

By the fourth quarter Tuesday, it dissolved.

Red Lion’s Jenny Horvatinovic, left, and West York’s Heather Zinn battle for control at Red Lion Area High School Tuesday. The Bulldogs won,
Red Lion's Jenny Horvatinovic, left, and West York's Heather Zinn battle for control at Red Lion Area High School Tuesday. The Bulldogs won, 59-50. (Daily Record/Sunday News - Kate Penn)

"A lot of people are saying we're going to lose because we didn't have Sarah. She had 22 points last time," Wood said. "We knew that we were learning how to play without her, and we're just getting better, week by week, and learning how to play without that presence in the post."

@mgoul; 771-2045

  
WEST YORK (59)
   Emily Wood 11 10-10 36, Kari Lankford 2 1-3 5, Jessica Noll 2 0-0 4, Heather Zinn 1 2-4 4, Alyssa Krepps 1 2-4 4, Raychel Johnson 1 0-0 2, Katie Tallman 1 2-2 4, Kelly Slagle 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 17-23 59.
RED LION (50)
   Kasey Seitz 2 0-1 4, Morgan Kuehne 6 3-6 15, Courtney Dimoff 2 0-0 5, Jenny Horvatinovic 5 8-10 19, Devan Horka 2 0-0 4, Kelsey Clever 1 0-0 3, Julia Kendrick 0 0-0 0, Marissa Ness 0 0-0 0, Taylor Funke 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 11-17 50.
West York   11  10  14  24 -- 59
Red Lion   11    7  17  15 -- 50
   3-point goals -- West York 4 (Wood 4); Red Lion 3 (Dimoff, Horvatinovic, Clever).
   JV score -- West York, 37-36 (OT).