In memorable week, O’Hara’s McGinty has 800 reasons to smile

PHILADELPHIA >> Cardinal O’Hara senior Mary Sheehan calls it her pre-game ritual.

“Mr. (Linus) McGinty and I look at each other, fist bump and say ‘great one,’” Sheehan said as she talked about the man who has been her head coach for the last four years.

Over those years, Sheehan has played in more than a few games that could be considered “great ones.”

For McGinty, O’Hara’s head coach for 22 years after serving as head coach at Archbishop Carroll for a dozen seasons, there have been many great games and a lot that remain memorable.

The 77-36 romp past Central High of the Philadelphia Public League in the PIAA District 12 Class 6A final at South Philadelphia High Saturday afternoon will be most memorable as the 800th time a team coached by McGinty has come out on the winning side of the final score. It was his 532nd victory as O’Hara’s head coach.

“We’ve had a ton of great players and I’ve had a ton of great assistant coaches,” said McGinty, whose team will take on Upper Dublin, District 1’s ninth-place team, in the opening round of the PIAA Tournament Friday night.

“Every year we just seem to be blessed with such great kids. I just felt so good that this team won Monday night.”

He was referring to the Catholic League championship game victory over Archbishop Wood in the first game Sheehan, Hannah Nihill and the other Lions had played at The Palestra.

Sheehan went 7-for-7 from the floor in the opening period Saturday, getting a number of follow-up baskets and taking advantage of some slick passes from Nihill. She added another basket in the second period, led O’Hara with 18 points and added six rebounds and three assists.

Nihill chipped in 13 points and made four steals, and Emily Helms came off the bench and dropped in three shots from behind the arc for nine points for the Lions.

“I think Mr. McGinty was as excited as we were when we won that game (against Wood) the other night,” Sheehan said after she and her teammates posed for pictures and videos with their coach while holding a large banner with the number 800 written across it.

Chris Genther has been an assistant coach at O’Hara each year that McGinty has been the head man.

“Every year he just enjoys teaching, counseling, coaching and being around the kids,” Genther said.

Nihill, the 2016 Daily Times Player of the Year who will play at Drexel next winter, recalled walking into the gym as an eighth grader when McGinty was working with his team.

“I just told myself that I really wanted to play for him,” Nihill said. “And I wanted to be part of the Cardinal O’Hara legacy.

“These last two weeks have been like a dream come true. Before the championship game, we got together and said we had to win it for Mr. McGinty. That made it so special.”

Junior Molly Paolino didn’t hesitate when asked to speak about her head coach.

“He’s just the nicest man and we all love him,” Paolino said. “It’s great that we’re winning for him and for Cardinal O’Hara. It will be hard without our seniors next year, but right now we’re just thinking about how much fun it’s been these last two weeks.”

Matt Githens was an assistant coach at Archbishop Carroll before coming to O’Hara last year.

“He knows when to be easy on (the players) and when he has to (get on them),” Githens said. “He just puts so much confidence in them.”

Which might help explain why so many of the games McGinty has been involved in have had happy endings, including Saturday’s.

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