COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The 7th ranked D4 team in the AP poll, Tree of Life, secured a one game lead in the MOCAL Thursday evening thanks to an unbelievable effort by freshman Gianna Lane. The Trojans dominated from start to finish en route to a 65-20 victory over Delaware Christian.
Tree of Life jumped out to a 12-0 lead thanks to eight points by senior Elisha Smith and they never looked back. Senior Katie Neuhart broke the run with a midrange jumper but the bleeding did not stop there. The Trojans scored eight more points before a second bucket by Neuhart, a bucket that pushed her over 1000 points in her career. Tree of Life had a comfortable 20-4 lead heading into the second quarter.
The Trojans picked up right where they left off, starting the quarter on a 24-1 run. Their ¾ court defense gave the Eagles fits, particularly, the defensive effort by Lane and sophomore Keyonna Walker. Thanks to several turnovers, Lane scored 15 points in the second alone. A three by Neuhart closed out the second quarter with the Trojans leading 47-10.
Lane’s domination continued into the second half, scoring 10 of the Trojan’s 12 points including a buzzer beater three. Tree of Life held Delaware Christian to just five points giving them a 59-15 lead with eight minutes to play.
Smith and Richardson carried the scoring duties for the Trojans in the fourth, scoring four and two, respectively. Ellie Tiede completed a three point play and Neuhart added a basket for the Eagles.
Lane led the Trojans with 33 points, 11 above her average. Smith added 12 and Richardson and Walker added eight each. Neuhart was the leading scorer for the Eagles with 13.
Let’s take a look at Thursday’s top performers.
Gianna Lane (PG/ Tree of Life / 2025) - Lane is going to be special. She is averaging 22 points per game as a freshman and it’s only up from here. She has incredible lateral quickness and her hands are always active on defense, forcing dozens of turnovers. Her basketball IQ is high and she has a passing ability to match. Lane scored in nearly every way imaginable Thursday, leading to 33 points. In the first quarter, she started to catch fire off of a steal and score followed by a right handed drive to get to the foul line. This was followed almost immediately by a ball fake and mid range jumper. She scored five baskets off of her own steals. If there was one piece of her game to critique, it would be her consistency from three. She struggled in the first half but connected twice in the second, including a buzzer beater to end the third. The freshman guard has powered Tree of Life to a 13-0 start on the year and a No. 7 ranking in the latest state AP poll. The Trojans have never won a district title in program history and haven’t appeared in a final since 1996, however, with Lane running the show, records are bound to be broken and banners bound to be put up.
Katie Neuhart (5’8 G / Delaware Christian / 2022) - Neuhart, who scored her 1000th point Thursday, brings so much to the table. She has a great basketball IQ, functions as a coach on the floor and her leadership abilities are strong. Though she didn't connect consistently Thursday, she has a nice outside shot and can get to the basket off the dribble. She can play with her back to the basket and finishes through contact. She frequently drew double teams but did not show frustration. Neuhart could make an impact in the right program at the next level.
Elisha Smith (F / Tree of Life / 2022) - Smith was ready to play as soon as she touched the floor on Thursday. She scored eight of the Trojan’s first 10 points on three offensive rebounds. She is an active defender and an impact player for Tree of Life. She has a smooth shot and attempted some three point shots in the second half but failed to connect. She is an important part of the Trojan’s team and if she continues to play well, a long tournament run is in their future.
Paris Richardson (F / Tree of Life / 2022) - Like Smith, Richardson is a relentless rebounder. She has some serious hops and displayed her athletic ability on the defensive end. Four of her points came off of put-backs and two came from a steal and score thanks to her quick hands. She fills her role incredibly well and will help carry this team to new heights.