MARPLE — Izaiah Pasha doesn’t have to think about the question very long.
The 6-5 guard spent his first two years of high school at Central Dauphin East. In his first two months of basketball at Cardinal O’Hara, the difference in atmosphere between the Catholic League as opposed to the middle of the state is quite clear.
“This is nothing like that,” Pasha said Sunday. “This is way better.”
Pasha is acclimating beautifully to the level of play. Pasha scored 23 points on Sunday, including 17 in a dominant first half, to lead O’Hara to a 66-53 win over Bonner-Prendergast before a boisterous matinee crowd.
Pasha was the most noticeable player on the court in the opening 16 points. He made his first six shots from the field, including a hanger in the lane that he finger-rolled home from six feet and a putback slam. He capped the half by banking in a 24-footer to make it 33-19 at the break.
Coming off a triple double this week against Archbishop Ryan, Pasha didn’t quite stuff the stat sheet to that degree. But with six rebounds, a pair of assists and constant defensive pressure on Bonner’s contingent of green guards, he impacted the game plenty, even when not scoring. (His game is faintly reminiscent of another one-time O’Hara player: Jordan Hall, who spent his sophomore season as a Lion before transferring to Neumann-Goretti, though Pasha may not attain the 6-7 frame of the Saint Joseph’s guard.)
His influence without scoring was pronounced in the third quarter, when he had just two points but dished two assists to big man Pearse McGuinn. All four of McGuinn’s baskets in the frame were assisted, the Lions (8-6, 4-3 Catholic League) moving the ball superbly.
“It’s just being a team player and getting them going,” Pasha said. “Because once we get them going, you see there’s nothing they can do. They’re face-guarding me but I have teammates that can step up.”
Bonner (5-6, 1-4) made things interesting in the fourth quarter. The Friars scored 26 points in the first three quarters to dig a 22-point hole. Then they promptly scored 27 points in the final eight minutes.
Offensive rhythm eluded Bonner early, due in part to Brady Eagan sitting most of the first half with foul trouble created by McGuinn. The Friars’ rotation includes two freshmen and a slew of underclassmen, most of whom are essentially a year younger than their experience given that the team played only five games in the COVID-shorted 2020-21 season.
Bonner was outscored by Pasha, 10-6, in the first quarter, and barely edged ahead of him by the break, 19-17. Most surprising, for a team that has made deep states runs in recent years on the back of stellar perimeter shooters, Bonner attempted just one 3-pointer in the first half.
Eagan, back on the court in the third, hit a pair of triples in that quarter alone.
“It was hard to get open,” the junior Eagan said. “They were playing good defense, but we found ways. In the first half, it was more difficult than the second. When we found ways, we could score at will when we wanted to.”
Bonner threatened to make a game of it in the third, Eagan’s 3-pointers getting the Friars within 11 with just over five minutes left. But they were shut out the rest of the quarter, allowing McGuinn to spearhead an 11-0 run that made it 48-26.
“Sometimes we’re either not hitting shots and it kills us, or we’re not shooting the ball,” Eagan said. “It’s different every game. We’re so inconsistent right now.”
In the fourth, though, things got interesting with Bonner pushing the pace. They turned O’Hara over eight times in the fourth – for the game, Bonner coughed it up 16 times to O’Hara’s 14 – to generate the easy baskets that eluded them in the first half.
AJ Dreger stepped up with all 10 of his points, including a pair of 3-pointers, to get Bonner within six at 58-52 with less than two minutes to play. Bonner came up empty on its next three trips, though, including four missed free throws, to let O’Hara off the hook. O’Hara converted its final six free-throw attempts – four by Hunter Johnson – to shake off some early nerves at the line.
Eagan led Bonner with 12 points. Shakur Smith scored nine points to go with seven rebounds and three steals. Baasil Saunders scored all eight of his points in the fourth, and freshman Saaid Lee supplied eight points. The Friars were just 7-for-19 from the line, not helping their cause.
Johnson scored 14 points for O’Hara. McGuinn finished with 11, plus seven rebounds and four blocks. Josh Coulanges scored 10 points, including a momentum-stemming 3-point play early in the fourth. Zuri Harris nailed a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter on the way to eight points. O’Hara shot 62.5 percent (25-for-40) from the field.
That figure is a testament to Pasha’s influence within the offense, which is certainly a collaborative effort. It also reflects Pasha’s embrace of the Catholic League challenge.
“I’ve been waiting for moments like this my whole life, to be honest,” Pasha said. “I always wanted big moments like this, full crowds, to show people who I am. People don’t’ really know about me, but that’s when I take advantage and use game like this to show everyone who I am. And I love the atmosphere, the crowds, the rivalry crowds, saying your name and all that. It’s fun.”