Weekly Feature

2018-03-07 / Sports

O’Hara lady cagers win fifth-straight MMAA title over Sacred Heart

Sports Reporter

Angel Parker of Cardinal O’Hara snags a rebound and gets a shot off while being guarded by Siobhan Ryan of Sacred Heart. Parker and the Lady Hawks overcame a slow start to win their fifth-straight league title. 
Photo by Jake French Angel Parker of Cardinal O’Hara snags a rebound and gets a shot off while being guarded by Siobhan Ryan of Sacred Heart. Parker and the Lady Hawks overcame a slow start to win their fifth-straight league title. Photo by Jake French For a few minutes, it looked like Sacred Heart had them. In the second quarter of the Monsignor Martin A girls basketball championship game, the Sharks led four-time defending champion and owners of an 88-game local win streak Cardinal O’Hara, 18-11.

But the Lady Hawks went on a two-quarter tear that saw them take control of the game and cruise to a fifth-straight Monsignor Martin title and an 89th-straight game over Western New York foes.

“I told the girls before the game they know they’re already going to a state playoff game,” Cardinal O’Hara coach Nick O’Neill said. “They have nothing to lose. They’re going to come out relaxed and play a very good game. That’s exactly what they did in the first half. I expected them to come out and play well. (Sacred Heart’s Carrie Owens) is a very good coach; they have very good players. I expected them to come out and challenge us the way they did.”

The game was seemingly shaping up to be a close, defense-dominated contest early on. The Sharks defense suffocated the Lady Hawks on offense while the Ryan sisters (Micaela and Siobhan) combined with Aoife Scannell to lead the way on offense early.

“The first half played out the way we prepared for the game, the way we thought we could play all along,” Sacred Heart coach Carrie Owens said. “We handled their pressure and their full-court press. We put in a couple different press breakers to be ready and it worked. We had turnovers that led to them scoring.”

After a timeout, O’Hara started to turn things on. Monsignor Martin A Player of the Year Angel Parker, who would finish with 18 points, scored to make it 18-13. After Kiara Johnson put in a two from the low post, Parker drove to the rim, finished and was fouled, tying the game at 18. She’d score again on the next possession to give her team the lead.

A frantic final two minutes of the half saw the teams trade baskets at a rapid pace. A Nickelle O’Neill jumper sent the Lady Hawks to the half with a 30-27 lead.

Cardinal O’Hara came out hot in the second half, turning up the pressure on defense and forcing Sacred Heart into mistake after mistake. Aaliyah Parker opened the half with two straight two-pointers. Mia McCarthy nailed a long jumper to make it 36-27. Harrison, Smith and Parker each added a two-point field goal in succession to make it 42-27. Cierra Harrison and Robbyn Sommerville then nailed back-to-back triples. All of a sudden, the Lady Hawks had a 48-27 lead.

“Our defense turns into offense,” O’Neill said. “I can’t say enough about Angel Parker. People don’t know that she’s been sick for the past two weeks. She’s been in and out of the hospital with this, that and the other thing. For a kid to come out and play the way she did and play like that over the last two weeks, that’s why I’m touting her for the best player in Western New York.”

The Sharks scored their first points of the half when Erin Hardwick layed in a two-pointer with 1:10 left in the quarter. In all, the Lady Hawks won the quarter 22-4. They ran their lead out to 62-37 before emptying out the bench and allowing the young girls to play.

“I was thinking that we needed to speed up and get ourselves together,” Angel Parker said. “We knew they were going to come in and try to win this. In the locker room, we were like ‘we gotta pick it up, we gotta get pumped.’ That’s what we work on in practice. It’s just about teamwork and pushing the ball and sharing.”

Sacred Heart scored the final nine points of the game to end things with a 62-46 score. They played a strong first quarter and a half, but the rest of the game played out like so many losses to O’Hara in recent years.

“It was 22-4 in that quarter, but you take away that quarter and we did fine in the first, second and fourth,” Owens said. “It was an even game besides that. We basically lost by the point differential of that quarter. Instead of stepping up to the pressure, the girls kind of buckled. I’m not taking anything away from O’Hara; they’re very good. When you can go from a high-pressure intensity defense to stepping it up another notch, that’s a good team over there. Our girls will have to learn if they want to beat the good teams, they’ll have to stay composed in a high-pressure defense.”

Despite the loss, Sacred Heart will move on to the Class A State Catholic playoffs, where they will take on Our Lady of Mercy at Holy Cross High School in Queens Friday at 5 p.m. in the semifinal round.

“I think we have a solid team this year to go down there and do some damage,” Owens said.

Meanwhile, Cardinal O’Hara will move on to the Class AA playoffs again, where they will play St. Anthony’s at St. Raymond’s High School in the Bronx Friday at 5 p.m. This year will carry some extra meaning, as O’Neill has been mulling over leaving the team after the season. He’s been the coach for four seasons and feels it may be time to let someone else – be it former coach Dan McDermott or assistant coach Mike McCarthy - have a chance.

“This was a special one for me because this is probably my last year coaching the O’Hara basketball team,” O’Neill said. “These girls have a chance to go to New York City and knock off one of these major league teams. The St. Anthony’s team that it looks like we’re going to play, we did beat them last year. The girls were here then. I think we have a good chance.

“I was given the opportunity by Dan McDermott four years ago. I think I should pass that on to Mike Mc- Carthy or Dan McDermott coming back and give them their opportunity. I was probably going to leave next year anyway. But I don’t want to leave and have all the players come with me. I want to leave you with Angel and Aaliyah Parker and a good team so you can go out there and compete.”

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