'Big advantage' carries No. 2 Mt. Lebanon past Gateway in 1st round
Preparing for one 6-foot-1 player would frustrate most girls basketball coaches.
Gateway's Cornelius Nesbit had twice the fun readying his team for Mt. Lebanon's down-low duo of 6-1 seniors Christine Ehland and Madeleine Collins.
Ehland and Collins dominated the paint during the second half of the second-seeded Blue Devils' 63-46 victory over No. 15 Gateway in a WPIAL Class AAAA first-round game Friday at Baldwin, totaling 33 points, 18 rebounds and six blocks.
“It can be frustrating,” Collins said. “I know we have a big advantage.”
Holding a 24-23 lead at halftime, Mt. Lebanon (16-5) used a putback and layup from Collins to push its lead to 33-25 at 5 minutes, 12 seconds of the third quarter.
The Blue Devils pulled away for good by opening the fourth with a 9-0 spurt to make it 52-35 following a pair of free throws from Maura Wallace at 5:01.
“They beat us up on the boards in the second half,” Nesbit said. “That swung the momentum of the game.”
Mt. Lebanon advanced to the quarterfinals and will play No. 7 Penn-Trafford next Friday, site and time to be determined.
Ehland finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. Collins had 11, eight and three. Wallace had 11 points as well, draining a pair of clutch 3-pointers in the third quarter.
Jada Epps led Gateway (13-9) with 14 points. London Wade added 10, but the Gators had no answer once Mt. Lebanon was able to establish its inside game.
“We wanted to get it inside, and they were doing a great job keeping us from getting it inside,” Blue Devils coach Dori Oldaker said. “We had to keep our heads, continue to play the game as hard as we could and hope good things were going to happen.”
They did, of course.
It's happened quite a bit for Mt. Lebanon, which won WPIAL Class AAAA titles in 2009, 2010 and 2012 and entered as the Section 1-AAAA champion.
The first half, however, was hardly Mt. Lebanon's best. Gateway led 12-8 after Epps' jumper from the foul line late in the first and 20-16 following a layup from Alexis Young midway through the second.
But the third quarter saw Mt. Lebanon smartly working the ball around and finding the open shot, much of the time an easy bucket for Ehland inside or a Wallace 3.
“Whenever we're moving the ball, passing quickly and making the defense move, that's when we're successful,” Ehland said.
There was no better example than Margie McCaffrey's jumping dish to Ehland, who one-timed the finish for a 46-35 edge at 6:09 of the fourth.
The pass lofted nice and high, there are few players who can defend that kind of height, no matter what an opposing coach comes up with.
“We knew we had height on Gateway,” Collins said. “Our guards were able to do a great job of moving the ball around and finding the bigs inside.”