The result will be remembered for a long time – partly because no one can remember exactly the last time it happened.
In a matchup of the two best girls basketball teams in Western New York, Cardinal O’Hara beat Sacred Heart, 57-55, Tuesday evening before a near-capacity crowd of about 750 at Villa Maria College.
Keyonte Edwards scored nine of her 17 points in the fourth quarter to help lead Cardinal O’Hara (19-0, 10-0), ranked first in The News small school poll, to a thrilling victory over previously unbeaten and No. 1 large school Sacred Heart (17-1, 11-1).
O’Hara coach Dan McDermott, in his 15th season as head coach and who has roots with the program back to 1990, said he believes it is the first victory for O’Hara over Sacred Heart since the 1990-91 season.
“Now we know we’re capable of doing it,” said McDermott. “We have to keep working hard and try to keep getting better. This is huge, but we have to keep wanting it more. More and more every day.”
Edwards, a 5-foot-8 junior, provided two pivotal baskets in the fourth, stealing the ball and scoring in transition, then driving down the gut of the lane for a score.
“This feels amazing, we wanted this game so bad,” said Edwards. “We had a lead, and the next thing you know it was a tie game. My teammates started to panic and I realized someone had to take over this game. I had to do it for my team.”
Edwards also hit 5 of 6 free throws, including a two-for-two trip with 2:40 to go to give the Hawks a 56-48 lead.
“I can’t say enough about Keyonte, the way she’s come on,” said McDermott. “It’s been every game. Just from the start of the season, how she’s become that complete player, and being a leader out there, and setting the tone for the rest of the team. It’s just a joy to watch because she’s such a good kid. The whole group, what a pleasure they are to work with every day.”
O’Hara survived an up-and-down final minute-and-a-half in which cheers and screams for both team bounced off the walls of the gym with each momentum swing. O’Hara had a 56-52 lead with the ball with 1:26 left, but Sacred Heart managed a steal and sophomore Julia Blujus swished a three-pointer from the right side to make it 56-55.
The Sharks stole the ball again, but a Blujus shot would not go down. A miss by the Hawks was followed by a foul, but the front-end of one-and-one was missed.
After Edwards hit 1 of 2 free throws for the 57-55 lead, Sacred Heart had possession in the O’Hara end with nine seconds to play. The inbounds pass was stolen by 6-foot senior Sara DiPasquale and she was fouled. Her free throw missed, and senior La’Trice Hall (21 points) came down the court for a final shot, but her runner at the buzzer bounced off the rim.
“We’ve got to make foul shots – you can’t win games if you don’t make foul shots,” said Sacred Heart coach Sister Maria Pares. whose team went 4 for 10 at the foul line in the fourth quarter and was 7 for 14 for the game. “That was the story of the game.”
O’Hara jumped to a lead early and maintained it most of the game thanks to its defensive pressure, the quickness of 5-4 senior Kayla Brown (three points), 5-7 junior Jailyn Dickson (10), 5-6 junior Aisha Shabazz (two) and 5-5 senior Leah McDonell (eight) along with the excellent two-way play under the basket by DiPasquale (eight) and 6-1 junior Kelsey McCarthy (13).
The Hawks were up, 17-11, after one quarter and took a 29-22 lead at halftime.
Sacred Heart surged back to take a 42-40 lead in the third, but O’Hara came back, with Brown’s off-the-glass three-pointer giving the Hawks a 45-42 lead heading to the fourth.
The teams could meet again in the Monsignor Martin Association playoffs, which begin Feb. 23.
On the web
At BuffaloNews.com, review the live blog from the game, highlights and watch postgame interviews.
O’Hara’s girls basketball team will be the guest tonight on PrepTalkTV at 9 with hosts Keith McShea and Lauren Mariacher.