In a girls basketball game played at Lansdowne High Friday night to honor student-athlete Kayla Linton, who passed away last year on Jan. 28, 2017, the crowd remained silent until both teams combined to score 19 points.
Number 19 was Linton’s number in lacrosse and it was reached when Lansdowne’s Alexis Patterson hit a bank shot with 2:57 left in the first quarter to trim Western Tech’s lead to 15-4.
The Wolverines (7-5) went on to a 57-46 victory, led by Inaya Billy (17 points) and Tiffany Manning (16).
Courtney Austin led Lansdowne (3-4) with 18 points, but Patterson, who used to practice the same shot with Linton on the basketball court, had the most impactful points and the crowd erupted with chants of ‘Kayla, Kayla, Kayla.’
“That area is my sweet spot and I honestly didn’t think it would go in and when it did, I was so happy,” Patterson said. “Kayla is like my best friend, so that meant so much to me.”
Linton died of cardiac arrest during her senior year at age 17, after a severe bout of the flu.
Money raised from T-shirts and donations will go to two students at the end of the school year in the KL19 Scholarship Fund.
Last year, each student received $1,900 in honor of Linton.
“It was unbelievable,” Lansdowne athletic director Todd Hawkins said. “The way that this community comes together on things like this to support each other, it’s just amazing. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
New Lansdowne coach Titorian Richardson started Patterson, Austin, Katelyn Gruby, Kayla Custer and Jessica Trott at the beginning of the game because all five had played with Linton.
Western Tech raced out to an 11-0 lead in complete silence, with Manning leading the way with five points, including a three-pointer.
“We knew it was going to be an emotional night and I thought our girls did a good job of weathering that,”Western Tech coach Alan Lagon said. “I thought Lansdowne did come out with some energy.”
Sydney Stokes (11 points) got a steal and layup, giving the Wolverines a 15-2 lead and setting the stage for Patterson’s bank shot.
When she made it, the crowd erupted and gave a standing ovation in Linton’s honor that lasted nearly a minute.
“Kayla used to take that shot as well, so that kind of reminded me of her,” Patterson said. “I know she would have been happy.”
Coach Richardson recalled how Patterson and Linton would practice trying to outdo each other by banking it in from just inside the key.
“It used to be me, Alexis and Kayla at every practice and we would play against each other with that shot,”Richardson said. “It was very emotional.”
What got the coach even more emotional was the way his team fought back after falling behind by 25 points, 46-21, after three quarters.
Led by Courtney Austin’s 15 fourth-quarter points, the Vikings trimmed the lead to 56-46 following a three-pointer by Asia Smith with 50 seconds left.
But the comeback ended there and Stokes scored the final point of the game on a free throw.
“I’m absolutely excited with it [comeback],” Richardson said. “It goes to show you how much they love her. I don’t know if words can describe it, what they did, was phenomenal.”
Smith hit two three-pointers and Trott and Jasmine Schouster each had baskets during the fourth-quarter rally that also featured some physical intensity by both teams.
“It definitely did bring back memories because Kayla always loved intense games and this was her favorite game,” Patterson said. “She always liked playing the Western Tech game because it is always close.”
Hawkins, who said, “She was the sunshine of the school,”after Linton passed away, was glad that Western Tech was there to share the tribute.
“I definitely thought about it all day,” Hawkins said. “When we did the combined score, that was just Kayla, she didn’t have a mean bone in her body, so to combine with another team is just that I feel that’s what she would have wanted.”
Western Tech 57
Inaya Billy 17, Tiffany Manning 16, Sydney Stokes 11, Peace Ezeka 8, DeAna Tyson 3, Kelechi Onuigbu 2.
Courtney Austin 18, Jasmine Schouster 9, Asia Smith 6, Brenonda Johnson 5, Alexis Patterson 4, Katelyn Gruby 2, Jessica Trott 2.
Halftime Western Tech 35-16