DOVER — By now, Katie Byrnes feels like she’s seen a little bit of everything.
For one reason or another, her Dover High girls’ basketball team just finds a way to make games close at the end.
The Senators did it again on Tuesday night when they let Lake Forest whittle a 15-point lead down to just four in the closing seconds.
But No. 12 Dover didn’t let the 21st-seeded Spartans get any closer, holding on for a 42-38 victory in the first round of the DIAA state tournament.
The win was the Senators’ first state tourney victory since 2012 and sends Dover (10-10) just down the road to Magnolia where it will face fifth-seed St. Thomas More (16-2) on Thursday at 7 p.m.
The Senators had lost four straight games going into the tournament, squandering second-half leads in the last three.
“We get those leads and we tend to lose them because we think we’ve already won the game,” said Byrnes. “We don’t realize the other team’s going to get pumped up and come back.
“Every time’s exciting, every time they drive me nuts because it’s always something different that they’re doing.”
On Tuesday, Dover looked like it had a comfortable cushion when it went up 39-24 on a putback by Reeva Jackson (10 points) with 6:14 remaining.
But Lake Forest (13-8), which had a four-game winning streak snapped, finished the game on a 14-3 run.
Back-to-back three-pointers from Mya Maddox (12) got the Spartans within 42-34 with 2:31 still left. A driving basket by Arika Burrell (10) then made it 42-36 with 1:05 still on the clock.
Finally, though, another basket from Burrell got Lake Forest within four but with just two seconds remaining. The final horn sounded before the Spartans got any closer.
“In the fourth quarter, I loved the fact that they fought back,” said Lake coach Trenita Shields. “I wish they had done it the whole game. Sometimes, when there’s a challenge, we kind of shy away from it.
“But that’s just me building them up mentally. I’m going to get started working on that for next year so we don’t have this problem.”
The Senators could have made the last few minutes easier for themselves but missed several shots under the basket. Dover missed its final seven field-goal attempts.
“Really what cost us were the layups at the end,” said Senator senior guard Kyra Moore, who netted nine points. “We get rattled at the end and they start coming back. We just have to keep our composure.
“But I think we did the best (in Tuesday’s game). I think our younger girls have stepped up and matured and are able to handle the ball.”
Of course, Dover also played well enough earlier in the game to get its double-digit advantage. The Senators never trailed after taking a 5-3 lead on a Moore three-pointer with three minutes left in the first quarter.
Five players scored six points or more for the Senators while the 6-foot-1 Jackson also reached double figures in rebounds.
Making the state tournament gave Dover a second chance to accomplish some things this season.
A win on Thursday would give the Senators a ticket to Saturday’s quarterfinals, which will be played at the Carpenter Center in Newark.
“I’d rather lose at the Carpenter Center than in somebody else’s gym,” said Moore. “I mean that (playing in the Carpenter Center) is the goal.”
“We had an ugly season,” said Byrnes, whose team played 13 road games this season. “We lost games we shouldn’t have, we won games we probably shouldn’t have. But this is our second chance so let’s do something.
“They just want to go to the Bob (Carpenter Center). We’ve got St. Thomas More to conquer so we’ll see what happens.”