Nihill, Cardinal O’Hara roll over Episcopal Academy

MARPLE >> After Cardinal O’Hara dispatched Episcopal Academy, 73-35, at the Lions’ Christmas Tournament Thursday, coach Linus McGinty gave All-Delco senior guard Hannah Nihill a new nickname.

“Call her Mama Mia,” McGinty said.

Why Mama Mia? Maybe because Nihill slices and dices opposing defenders with her slick moves like a pizza cutter … if you are to assume that Nihill isn’t nicknamed after the famous British jukebox musical.

At any rate, Nihill displayed her immense talent Thursday, leading all scorers with 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting. The 2015-16 Daily Times Player of the Year also registered game highs in rebounds (five), steals (five) and assists (four).

Just another ho-hum performance for the county’s best guard (check out video of Nihill’s wicked crossover move below)

Although the Lions were spectacular against a very good Episcopal team, they are never quite satisfied.

“There is still some stuff that we need to work on. I feel like we need to work on our help defense and boxing out is really big for us because we don’t have size on our side,” said Nihill, a two-time All-Delco. “So, mainly boxing out and maybe getting into our sets a little quicker. It’s the little things that add up to making a big difference.”

Cardinal O’Hara’s Mary Sheehan tries to maneuver past Episcopal Academy’s Elodie Furey and to the basket.

Last season’s PIAA Class 4A finalists — the Lions moved up to Class 6A under the new classification system this season — are 3-2 after five games, but those losses were at the hands of two nationally-ranked opponents last week in Arizona. The Lions went 1-2 on their trip, but handled themselves very well facing some of the best competition in the country.

“Every game was definitely like a Super Bowl. We actually compared a lot of those teams to Neumann-Goretti because they were all athletic,” Nihill said. “Now we feel more comfortable playing against teams like Episcopal because the competition out there was just crazy.”

Maura Hendrixson, who committed to Drexel in the offseason, agrees with Nihill that participating in the Nike Tournament of Champions will pay dividends for the Lions (3-2) in the long run.

“In Phoenix, we didn’t care too much whether we won or lost, we just wanted to go out and compete,” Hendrixson said. “It was practice for the PCL (Philadelphia Catholic League) and some of the other good teams we’ll see this season.”

In their home opener Thursday, the Lions put on an exhibition, shooting 61 percent (28-for-46) from the floor while committing only four turnovers. O’Hara jumped out to an 8-0 lead with All-Delco Kenzie Gardler scoring six of the Lions’ first eight points. Nihill had four points, two assists, two steals and two rebounds in the opening eight minutes, while Hendrixson had a 3-pointer and an assist.

“It felt so much better coming back and winning our first home game,” said Hendrixson, who finished with eight points.

Gardler scored 13 points and All-Delco Mary Sheehan scored six of her eight points in the third period. Molly Paolino tossed in four points and two assists, while top reserve players Emily Helms added nine points on three 3-pointers and Bridgette Hoy nailed two treys for six points.

The Lions have another stiff challenge Friday when they take on Bethlehem Catholic, which claimed a 64-41 win over Academy of Notre Dame Thursday. Next week the Lions will jump back into Catholic League play with their Jan. 11 date with Neumann-Goretti on the horizon.

Nihill, Sheehan, Gardler, Hendrixson and Paolino have been starters for most of the last three seasons, and Nihill wants to enjoy every game with her

Cardinal O’Hara’s Maurie Hendrixson, left, defends Episcopal Academy’s Reilly Wright in Thursday’s 73-35 O’Hara win.

pals like it’s her last.

“For all of us, this is our third year playing with each other on this team and this is our last go-round,” Nihill said. “We’re all just going to play the way we know how to play, and the main goal of this season is to play together. Living in the moment is my senior quote. I want to take every game in, realizing that this is my last time playing with some of these people. I just want to make the best of it.”

Episcopal Academy (5-3) was led by Luca Mamula, who had nine points, five rebounds and a steal. Reilly Wright chipped in with eight points and Cornell-bound forward Elodie Furey had five rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots. Seanna McNamara scored seven points for the Churchwomen.

In other games at the O’Hara Christmas Tournament:

Springfield 47, Gloucester Catholic 32>> The Cougars limited Gloucester to two points in the second quarter and held a 23-10 advantage at halftime. Sophomores Belle Mastropietro and Jordan D’Ambrosio did most of the damage for Springfield (6-1). Mastropietro led all players with 19 points, grabbed eight rebounds, dished two assists and made two steals. D’Ambrosio netted 18 points and supplied three assists.

Springfield plays Episcopal Academy in the next round of the O’Hara Holiday Tournament Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Bethlehem Catholic 64, Notre Dame 41 >> Jill Kane led the way with 11 points for the Irish (5-3). Mandy McGurk added nine points, five assists and three steals, while Casey Walsh registered seven eight points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Notre Dame plays Gloucester Catholic Friday at 6 p.m.

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