PHILADELPHIA — Cardinal O’Hara entered Saturday’s District 12 Class AAAA championship against Central with a three-game losing streak and a 15-day layoff.
To an extent, the Lions played like it. To a more important extent, they washed away what was a difficult February of basketball, blowing past the Lancers, 52-33, to capture their first district crown since 2013. O’Hara only trailed in the early stages of the game and kept their lead above double digits for most of the second half.
Mary Sheehan had 16 points to lead O’Hara (20-5), which had already clinched a spot in the PIAA Tournament. With this victory, it clinches the No. 1 seed from District 12 and will face the ninth seed from District One — upset-minded Radnor — Friday in the first round of the statet tournament.
After 32 solid minutes of basketball at St. Joseph’s Prep, the Lions are feeling better about what lies ahead.
“We took the time we needed to get our minds right,’ Sheehan said. “We had better defensive energy (Saturday) than we had the past three games.’
While O’Hara shoots a ton of 3-pointers — it sunk seven of them, including three each for Sheehan and Molly Paolino — it got a number of points in transition via superb point guard play from Hannah Nihill, who dropped 13 points to go with a handful of dimes.
That helped offset what O’Hara coach Linus McGinty said was about 20 percent shooting. What also helped was giving this young, young team something tangible to celebrate.
“I think it’s a good thing, we’re so young,’ McGinty said. “We’ve been struggling a little bit, winning championships is always good.’
Sheehan felt the same way.
“It’s our first actual championship, it means a lot to us,’ the 5-11 sophomore said. “It’s always great to win a championship, it means a lot to us.’
Central actually led 4-0 early on, but O’Hara quickly turned that around and was up, 13-8, after the first quarter. By halftime, it had a seven-point lead. At the end of the third quarter, it was comfortably ahead, 40-26. It coasted from there.
Every last player on the roster got in the game by the end of the fourth quarter.
“We had a great season, we went through a tough stretch at the end, hopefully we got our energy back,’ McGinty said. “I thought we played well.’
O’Hara knows it will need more of that come Friday.
Last year in the first round of states, it ran into a strong Mount St. Joseph team and lost. But Sheehan and her fellow sophomores learned from that experience. They figure things will be different this time around.
“We’re going in with the mindset that we can win,’ Sheehan said. “Hopefully by Friday night, we’ll be ready to play.’
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