Linden Hall knew the game was hanging in the balance, and the Lions pounced.
Thanks a 12-0 second-quarter tear, and a huge night on the glass from 6-foot-5 Northwestern University recruit Mercy Ademusayo, back-to-back reigning District Three Class 2A champ Linden Hall topped Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Five champ Lancaster Mennonite 48-40 on Monday night in a battle of district contenders at Mennonite.
The Blazers booked a quick 10-2 lead, but when Mennonite’s Mariah Wilson — the league’s leading scorer at 23 points a game — shuffled off to the bench with her second foul with 6:27 to go in the first half, Linden Hall immediately went to work, feeding Ademusayo in the post trip after trip.
End result: Ademusayo scored 10 of her 18 points in the second quarter, keying the Lions’ 12-0 spree, when Linden Hall went from down 10-2 to up 14-10. Ademusayo added to the Lions’ big second quarter with a pair of layups at the rim in the final minute of the half, giving Linden Hall a 22-15 lead at the break.
The Lions (6-3 overall) started the week ranked first in the Class 2A power ratings; Mennonite (11-5) was at No. 3 in Class 3A.
“Mennonite is having a great season,” Linden Hall coach Ellen Bair said, “and Mariah Wilson is no joke. So I’m glad we were able to come out of here with the win, for sure.”
Ademusayo had 16 rebounds and she swatted six shots, as the Lions owned a robust 42-20 edge in the rebounding column. Linden Hall added to its halftime cushion with a quick 7-0 blitz to open the third quarter; Nadja Velisvljev buried a jumper and Anastasiya Astapenka coaxed in back-to-back jumpers during the run, including a deep 3-pointer that gave the Lions their largest lead, 29-15, with 6:24 to go in the third.
Ademusayo’s layup gave Linden Hall a cozy 36-24 cushion heading into the fourth, and that’s when Mennonite came alive. Wilson scored eight of her game-high 22 points in the fourth, and Lily Lehman and Jayla Rivera splashed treys to keep the Lions honest. Rivera’s triple cut Linden Hall’s lead down to 42-34 with 4:39 to go.
Astapenka helped the Lions close it out, with back-to-back back-breaking transition layups off of steals, as Linden Hall forced 11 turnovers — three in the fourth quarter, which all led directly to run-out layups.
“Once we found those looks … I was happy to see us adjust for sure,” Bair said about feeding Ademusayo in the lane. “This is a big win, because every night for us is learning opportunity. That’s how we’ve been approaching this season.”
Astapenka had 15 points and five rebounds, Velisvljev had three buckets and 10 rebounds and the backcourt combo of Luna Kirby and Jenadia Jordan combined for eight points and 12 boards for Linden Hall.
Lehman had eight rebounds for Mennonite, which knocked down five 3-pointers and forced 17 turnovers. But that second-quarter deficit, in the end, was too much to dig out of.
“The positive thing about this is that our girls didn’t quit,” Mennonite coach Trevor Orr said. “I thought we came out after the third quarter and really picked it up. We just ran out of gas.”