After a terrific first half of the YAIAA girls' basketball quarterfinal, York Catholic could see its sizable halftime lead slipping as Red Lion found its footing at both ends of the Dover High School gym floor.
So Fighting Irish coach Kevin Bankos looked to a familiar source, senior Morgan Klunk, who took over the game.
Klunk scored 11 of her game-high 28 points in the third quarter. Her clutch free throws helped York Catholic stave off another Lions rush in the final eight minutes, and the Irish advanced to the semifinals behind their 55-48 victory.
Red Lion's Jenny Horvatinovic, who dropped a team-high 17 points, scored back-to-back baskets and teammate Morgan Kuehne (12 points) followed with a jumper. The 16-point Irish halftime lead was down to 34-24, and Bankos called timeout.
"(Morgan) came over to me and said, 'They are really face-guarding me.' And I said 'Morgan, I need the ball in my leader's hands. Who is that?' She replied, 'That's me,'" Bankos said. "I told her, 'Go get the ball, it's your game. They can't stop you,' and the rest of our kids played the roles they needed to play.
"They all knew what they had to do to win the game, and she put us on her back. That's the way it's been all season. When it comes down crunch time you've got to have that one rock, and we have it."
Klunk's layup out of the timeout came in handy, but the senior saved her best for late in the quarter.
After two Kuehne free throws brought Red Lion to within 39-34 with two minutes to play in the third, Klunk canned a jumper and followed a Lions turnover with two free throws. On their next two possessions, Klunk hit another foul shot before calmly draining an outside jumper before the buzzer to end the third quarter with the Irish up 46-34.
Klunk smiled when asked about Bankos' advice.
"He said for my teammates to set screens, which turned out to be a good thing for us," she said. "It left my teammates open, and I was able to get to the foul line."
She wasn't done there, either. Red Lion opened the fourth with a six-point run, cutting the lead in half. Later, a Kasey Seitz layup brought Red Lion within 50-46. A short while later, a Klunk free throw made it 54-46, but she was assessed a technical foul and Horvatinovic hit both free throws.
Hannah Laslo helped by blocking Kuehne's 3-point attempt and Zaenna Echevarria hit 1-of-2 from the line with 11 seconds remaining. The Lions missed a 3-pointer -- this one blocked out of bounds by Amelia York -- and fittingly Klunk stole the ball as time expired.
"Morgan is an excellent player. Whenever she attacks the basket it motivates the whole team," Echevarria said. "And she knows it, too. It's great for us."
Six of the York Catholic players who saw action in the first half scored, but after the break only Klunk hit a field goal. Bankos said he never felt comfortable with any lead against the Lions.
"We told them at halftime, 'This is nothing for (Red Lion) to overcome,'" he said. "We have watched them enough to know they were going to make a run. We missed two easy shots right away at the beginning of the third quarter. When we missed, they rebounded, came down and hit their shots. It was just a transition where they made plays"
Red Lion (15-8) forged an early 7-6 lead, but the Irish responded with 13 straight points as a part of an 18-2 run to take a 24-9 lead after one quarter.
RED LION (48)
Seitz 3 0-0 6, Morgan Kuehne 5 2-2 12, Horka 1 0-0 2, Kendrick 0 0-0 0, Clever 1 0-0 3, Ness 0 0-0 0, Dimoff 3 0-0 8, Jen Horvatinovic 7 3-3 17. Totals 20 5-5 48.
YORK CATHOLIC (55)
York 3 0-2 7, Chesko 0 2-4 2, Ressler 2 0-0 4, Morgan Klunk 10 8-10 28, Echevarria 2 1-2 6, Keffer 1 0-0 2, Laslo 1 4-4 6. Totals 19 15-22 55.
Red Lion 9 9 16 14 -- 48
York Catholic 24 10 12 9 -- 55
3-point goals -- Red Lion 3 (Dimoff 2, Clever); York Catholic 2 (York, Echevarria).