I know, I know. The Varsity Beat has been getting a bit Red Lion-heavy of late. Well, that’s where I spent Monday and Tuesday of this week, so you’ll have to humor me.
In any event, the Red Lion girls’ victory over a solid Altoona team Tuesday got a bit shortchanged in our print coverage, mostly because the Lions boys game later was such a thriller. As such, I’ll use the space below to provide a bit of a breakdown of Don Dimoff’s Lions, who at 8-1 have cemented themselves as one of the area’s top girls teams.
Red Lion’s biggest strength may be its depth. In each of its two games this week, the Lions went five-deep off the bench, giving Dimoff ten total players to shuffle in and out.
Each night, a new player seems to step up. On Monday against Central Bucks South, reserve Hannah Brillhart scored six points in a second quarter cameo to help Red Lion take a halftime lead. The next night, forward Kelsey Wolf came in and hit a pair of key treys in the second quarter to help the Lions close the half on a 12-4 run. Others, like guards Tayler Huson, Taylor Flatau and Shanley Harlacker, also contribute.
“This is by far the most depth I’ve had,” said Dimoff, who has led his Lions to seven straight 20-win seasons. “I think I have five or six people coming off the bench that can start for a lot of teams in York County.”
“All of us work so hard at practice, we work so hard against each other,” said senior forward Sarah Innerst, who took home tournament MVP honors on Tuesday. “Even if you start, you don’t start, everyone’s a contributor. Everyone can shoot. We got so many players who can do a lot.”
Innerst and junior guard/forward Gisselle Truiett give Red Lion a nice one-two scoring punch. Both will pop the occasional 3-pointer, and both can also get inside. I’ve been particularly impressed with Truiett, whose quickness and size makes her a matchup nightmare. Get her going, and she can score in bunches. Sophomore Erica Maciejewski is strong inside, and made an incredible block in transition to deny Altoona a tying bucket in the final minute Tuesday night.
But more than anything, what sticks out about these Lions is that they simply know how to win. They go through scoring lulls — in both their games this week allowed their opponents back into the game in the fourth quarter. Dimoff said the Altoona game was like “groundhog day.” But this team never seems to lose its composure — it made 8 of its last 10 free throws against Altoona.
“We did what we needed to do. I’ve coached long enough to know that’s a trait that is needed,” Dimoff said. “You gotta know you can win. You gotta know no matter what you’re going to find a way to win. This team found that out last year in the postseason, and now they’re kind of building on that.”
“We play with a sense of urgency all the time,” Innerst said, “but the last quarter, the last few minutes especially, it’s push it, push it, push it all the time.”
My verdict? This Red Lion team won’t wow a whole lot of people. It doesn’t have a Kady Schrann or a Sierra Moore who can put up huge point totals. But the Lions play well as a unit, and Dimoff’s track record shows he knows how to get a lot out of his players. As of right now, they’re certainly one of the top three or four teams in the YAIAA.