LEBANON — There is simply no stopping Hempfield’s girls basketball team.
The sizzling Black Knights made it 17 L-L League victories in a row Thursday night, holding off host Cedar Crest 36-28 for a key Section One road victory behind enemy lines.
The win put Hempfield (3-0 league, 3-1 overall) alone in first place, and knocked the Falcons (1-1, 1-1) out of a first-place tie, after Cedar Crest beat Manheim Township last Friday.
The Falcons were back on the court for the first time since their game against the Blue Streaks, and they struggled in the first half with Hempfield’s 1-2-2 full-court pressure. The Knights forced five first-quarter turnovers and never let Cedar Crest get comfortably into its half-court sets.
Autumn Cook had a pair of early baskets, and Kira Mattes and Brynn Axe each drilled a 3-pointer to give Hempfield a 10-2 lead heading into the second quarter. The Knights were able to stretch their lead behind Orianna Edmond, who had a post bucket, Lauren Moffatt, who scored in the lane and hit three free throws, and Cook, who bottomed out a wing jumper to give Hempfield a 21-9 cushion with 1:15 to go in the half.
Trailing 21-10 at the break, Cedar Crest finally warmed to the task in the third quarter, opening the stanza with a 7-0 spurt to get back in it. Reese Glover, who scored a team-high eight points, had a pair of buckets and Kaya Camasta drilled a trey during the run, and the Falcons had Hempfield’s lead down to 26-20 heading into the fourth quarter.
But the Knights, who never trailed Thursday, answered immediately; Axe and Cook, who had a team-high eight points, had back-to-back transition layups to open the fourth, and Hempfield stopped the bleeding and snagged a 30-20 lead.
“When you play Cedar Crest, it’s a game of momentum, and we had the momentum in the first half,” Hempfield coach Kendra Merrifield said. “At halftime we talked about getting a punch from them at some point, and I thought they came out in the third and made that punch. But I thought we did a really nice job responding, and not turning away.”
Cedar Crest made one last run; Sarah Laney splashed a corner 3-pointer, and when Camasta hit a pair of foul shots with 3:23 to go, the Falcons were within 32-27.
But Hempfield closed it out behind Ava Baer, who canned a key jumper, and Baer and Jess Weinoldt each coaxed in a pair of free throws in the waning seconds to ice it.
“Our shots started to go and we were able to execute better in the third,” Cedar Crest coach Will Wenninger said. “And I thought we also did much better because we were limiting them to one shot and done. We said at halftime that 11 points was nothing. We weren’t going to get it all back in one possession, so we had to peck, peck, peck, peck. We got it to exactly where we wanted to be, and our kids never quit.”
But Cedar Crest couldn’t get over the hump.
Hempfield forced 15 turnovers in all. More importantly, the Knights took care of the ball, with just eight turnovers. Hempfield also won the rebounding battle by a 29-22 margin, as Moffatt pulled down eight boards and Edmond had seven caroms for the Knights.
Both teams return to the court Saturday for nonleague games: Hempfield will take on Wilson; Cedar Crest gets Red Lion.