Weekly Feature



2018-03-07 / Sports

O’Hara boys hoops falls in Manhattan Cup final

by TAYLOR NIGRELLI Reporter


Nasir Benton of Cardinal O’Hara dives for a loose ball during the Hawks Monsignor Martin B Championships loss to Niagara Catholic Tuesday at Canisius College. 
Photo by Jake French Nasir Benton of Cardinal O’Hara dives for a loose ball during the Hawks Monsignor Martin B Championships loss to Niagara Catholic Tuesday at Canisius College. Photo by Jake French The Cardinal O’Hara boys basketball team fell just short in its pursuit of a Class B Manhattan Cup Championship last Tuesday, losing to Niagara Catholic, 73-65. The Hawks had a goal of being the more-disciplined team in the game, but fell short of that.

“The key before the game was the more disciplined team was going to win and we had to be the more-disciplined team,” Cardinal O’Hara coach Tony Pulvirenti said. “But we weren’t. They were the more-disciplined team and they won. They were sprinting back on defense, and a lot of stuff we talked about during timeouts didn’t translate on the court. I enjoy coaching for the life lessons. If you’re not disciplined in life, you’re not going to be very successful.”


Justin Hemphill of Cardinal O’Hara tries to grab a rebound while taking contact from Haakim Siner of Niagara Catholic. 
Photo by Jake French Justin Hemphill of Cardinal O’Hara tries to grab a rebound while taking contact from Haakim Siner of Niagara Catholic. Photo by Jake French After the teams played to a 13-13 tie in the first quarter, Niagara Catholic started to pull away slowly through the rest of the game. Haakim Siner and Jalen Bradberry took over on offense for the Patriots, leading them to a 33-29 halftime lead. They then pulled away further with a 51-44 lead after the third quarter. The Hawks had trouble stopping the Niagara Catholic offense.

“That had to do with them being disciplined on offense,” Pulvirenti said. “They weren’t taking bad shots. They were playing within their team offense. They weren’t going one-on-one, and they weren’t just going to the basket with blinders. They were trying to create offense when they were down there. They were able to create offense. But that wasn’t the structure of their team. They were disciplined that way, and it worked for them.”

The Hawks began to make a run early in the fourth quarter, after falling behind 54-44. Hemphill scored back-to-back baskets before Jaedin Cottman hit a jumper to get the score within 54-50. Bradberry then hit a bucket, before Hemphill countered with two of his 24 points. But back-to-back triples from Siner and Bradberry made it a 10-point game again. The Niagara Catholic offense never slowed down en route to a 73-65 win.

“It seemed like every time we scored they had an answer,” Pulvirenti said. “We saw that last Saturday, too, when they played St. Mary’s. St. Mary’s came back to tie it going into the fourth, but Niagara Catholic had an answer for every run they made. I give those guys a lot of credit. They’re a young team; they pulled together. They wanted it more than we did. They deserved to win.”

Hemphill was strong in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 points in that frame. The 1,000-point scorer is tough to stop once he gets going.

“Him scoring really helped,” Pulvirenti said. “He’s almost unstoppable when he gets the ball low. Unfortunately, we didn’t have too many other guys score.”

Meanwhile, Nasir Benton had 17 points in his final game as a Hawk. He was a tremendous player for the program for four years.

“Nasir gave us everything he had. It’s tough shoes to fill next year,” Pulvirenti said. “He’s been with us for almost four seasons. He played 85 varsity games throughout almost four years. I don’t know how we’re going to replace him. He’s one of the best athletes I’ve ever coached, and I’ve been at the school seven years now. He’s All-Catholic in both football and basketball. He does so much for us on offense and defense. He guards other team’s best player. I enjoyed having him for four years. He really stepped up this year as a leader.”

While Benton will move on, every other starter and nearly every player in the rotation will return next season. The team is well set up to have another successful season next year.

“We pretty much had our core group back from last year. I told them if we didn’t have leadership, we weren’t going to win anything. Justin and Nasir stepped up and we had some leadership that helped us get here.

“Everyone else besides Nasir is coming back, so hopefully this helps us for next year,” Pulvirenti said. “Anytime you lose a game, it should help you. Niagara Catholic is in our division. We’ll play them at least two more times next year. Hopefully, they’ll remember this. We have eight months until next season. We’ll get better as a team and better individually.”

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