O’Hara blasts Neumann-Goretti to book trip to Palestra

PHILADELPHIA >> Cardinal O’Hara seniors Hannah Nihill and Mary Sheehan will be remembered for many things when their remarkable basketball careers come to a close at the end of this season.
The pair approached Thursday night’s Catholic League semifinal contest against Neumann-Goretti at Philadelphia University determined to eliminate one of the achievements that had eluded them for their first three varsity seasons.
“We’ve never played at The Palestra,” Sheehan said.
That will change Monday night when the Lions, who earned a 57-42 decision over Neumann-Goretti Thursday, play for the Catholic League championship on the University of Pennsylvania campus.
“Mary and Kenzie (Gardler) didn’t make a shot when we played (Neumann-Goretti in the regular season),” O’Hara assistant Chris Genther said.
“It was so important for them to get their confidence early. And it was so big the way Maura (Hendrixson) got things started tonight.”
Hendixson scored 11 of her 15 points in the opening half, dropping in three of her four 3-point attempts. She also chipped in a pair of assists and two steals.
Hendrixson’s two 3-pointers in the second period staked the Lions to a 30-18 advantage.
“I just made up my mind I wasn’t losing to them again,” said Hendrixson, a junior who has committed to Drexel University. “I wanted to do my job, and I think everyone played their best game tonight. We didn’t just come up here to play the game. We came here to win the game.”
Gardler, a junior Villanova commit, was 4-for-5 from the floor, 10-for-14 at the foul line and finished with a game-high 19 points. She also had three assists and a pair of steals.
“These games are the last all of us will have with our seniors, and we want to give them the chance to remember something special about this season,” Gardler said.
“We played together, and that’s when we’re toughest. We were up at halftime, but we said we’d have to keep the pressure on them.”
Gardler scored six of her points in the third period while Sheehan (10 points, eight rebounds, two assists, one steal, one blocked shot) got the Lions’ lone basket of the fourth period. O’Hara’s other 12 points in that quarter came from the foul line.
“We knew that defense, effort and hustle were what we had to have to win this game,” said Sheehan, a future Saint Joseph’s Hawk. “This time we played against them with a lot more confidence and a lot more energy.
“We made better passes and didn’t just settle for shots from the outside.”
Point guard Hannah Nihill handled the N-G pressure in directing the O’Hara attack.
“We didn’t play very well against them the last time,” Nihill said. “We got up on them in the first half, then we told ourselves we had to keep playing like that and not let up in the second half.
“We valued every possession and kept our intensity up.”
Which is why their next three days of practice will be their final preparations for a chance to win the 2017 Catholic League title.

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