The 17th-ranked Institute of Notre Dame had the advantage on the inside early in yesterday's game at No. 4 Mercy, but the Indians had no answer for the magic of BJ Banjo.
The 5-foot-5 senior guard scored 28 points, including six of the Magic's last eight, to lead Mercy to a 57-48 victory over IND in an Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference game.
Banjo shot 9-for-19 from the field and was 8-for-8 from the free-throw line. She also had seven rebounds, five steals and an assist.
"BJ just refuses to lose," said IND coach Herb Hoelter. "Every time they need a big play, she's there. She's just a gamer who, I think, is probably the best player in the league."
The Indians (11-8, 6-6 conference) went into Mercy's gym yesterday riding a four-game winning streak that began a week ago with an upset of then-No. 1 Archbishop Spalding. The entire team had finally come together with 6-foot Carolyn Wesley back from an injury, but yesterday, 5-11 junior forward Colby Lee was out, serving the last day of a weeklong academic suspension -- her second such suspension this season.
That left the inside game to Wesley, 5-10 Qiana Smith and 6-foot Brooks Webster. The trio helped the Indians dominate the boards 14-8 and get six points off follow shots in the first quarter.
"We gave up too many baskets or free throws on the inside in the first half," said Mercy coach Mary Ella Marion. "We did a good job of concentrating on their guards, but were not boxing out well enough. We were overplaying the guards and leaving the forwards wide-open inside."
The Magic (13-6, 8-4) boxed out better in the second half, but the Indians kept pace from the perimeter. Chandrea Jones hit back-to-back 22-footers to keep IND within two early in the quarter and Jayme Otto later nailed two long jumpers to stay within 45-41 heading into the final quarter.
The Indians still trailed by four after Katie Hoelter fed Jones for a layup with 4:05 to go. The Magic answered with the two biggest plays of the afternoon.
Colette Hailey's next shot caromed off the rim into a crowd, but the ball rolled out to Hailey on the baseline. She spotted Megan Haywood alone in the paint for two easy points.
"That was a wonderful pass," Banjo said. "Megan, Colette, Mary Buettner, Morgan James -- they are all stepping up and doing everything they need to do. It's a team effort right now."
Twenty seconds after Haywood's bucket, Banjo converted a quick IND turnover into a driving layup for a 55-47 lead with 2:30 left.
Jones, who finished with 15 points, hit one free throw to make it 55-48, but the Indians missed three three-point attempts and turned the ball over twice in the final two minutes against the Magic's intense match-up zone.