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Nihill helps O’Hara put Central York on ice

READING >> The ball wasn’t bouncing the way Hannah Nihill wanted it to in the opening minutes of the PIAA Class 6A second-round game at Santander Arena’s Foundation Court Thursday night.

Nihill, the Cardinal O’Hara senior guard, had a talk with one of the officials.

“It was cold in here, and he said that the court was covering up the ice,” Nihill said. “And he said the ball might bounce funny on these boards.”

Cardinal O’Hara’s Hannah Nihill (20) absorbs contact en route to the basket during the first half of Thursday’s PIAA Class 6A girls basketball game against Central York. (Digital First Media/Sam Stewart)

Nihill and the Lions (24-5) shook off any unfamiliarity with the court and played like they were back in their home gym, racing to a big halftime lead and playing outstanding defense, especially in the fourth quarter, to claim a 55-35 victory over Central York, District 3’s fourth-place team, which was coming off an upset win over District 1 power Central Bucks West last weekend.

O’Hara will be back at home Friday to work on getting ready for Saturday’s state quarterfinal matchup against North Penn.

“They played with a lot of heart and they played like veterans who had been here before,” O’Hara head coach Linus McGinty said of his squad, which played for the PIAA Class 4A championship last winter.

“We ended the first half with seven in a row, and the hustle plays were there all night,” McGinty observed. Central York “had a little run or two, then our defense really got after them.”

Nihill’s name was all over the offensive and defensive statistical sheets. After missing her first three field goal attempts, she finished by making the last six shots she took and led O’Hara with 20 points. She also chipped in with five steals, four rebounds and four assists.

“We couldn’t be shaky out there,” Nihill said. “We had to play strong on defense. When they went on a run, we just kept our composure and kept playing hard.”

O’Hara opened the fourth quarter running, with Nihill hitting a pair of buckets — one from behind the arc — and Sheehan going 3 for 3 from the floor. Molly Paolino and Maura Hendrixson contributed a steal and a sharp pass for an assist.

Cardinal O’Hara’s Maura Hendrixson finishes a layup after spinning around Central York’s Emma Saxton en route to the basket Thursday. (Digital First Media/Sam Stewart)

Sheehan’s numbers included 14 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, one steal and a thunderous blocked shot that drew a loud reaction from the crowd.

“I didn’t know if she would see me coming,” Sheehan said. “I just tried to time it right.”

Sheehan was sidelined with an injury when O’Hara had a scrimmage with North Penn in December.

“We didn’t do all that well,” she said. “But we’re a different team now, and I know they are, too.”

Hendrixson hit three 3-point shots on her way to scoring 13 points in the first half.

“We saw on film what we had to do,” she said. “If you get the shot, you have to take it. And I had some shots that went in.”

Paolino made three steals and helped limit Central York guard Emma Saxton, the Panthers’ scoring leader, to 10 points.

“For the last 10 games, we’ve been trying to take the other team’s best scorer out of the game,” Paolino said.

With the way the Cardinal O’Hara players share the ball at the offensive end and attack the opposition on defense, no other team can afford to try to stop just one or two of the Lions.

“We’ve got to keep on playing the way we’ve been playing for three more games,” McGinty said. “But we’re at the point where we can only worry about one game at a time because they’re going to come up on you quickly.”

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