Sacred Heart has won the last three Monsignor Martin Association titles and after Tuesday night is lucky to be playing for a fourth.
The Sharks got their act together with about a minute to spare and beat Holy Angels, 47-44, in a semifinal game played at Canisius College.
Cold shooting and turnovers slowed the Sharks, but with the score tied at 42-42 with 55 seconds left, they did what champions do.
Freshman Sarah Young scored on a putback with 55 seconds left to take the lead and Chelsea Smith calmly sank three out of four free throws to put the Sharks in Friday’s title game. Holy Angels had a good look at a three-pointer which would have tied it with two seconds to go, but it was just off the mark.
The Sharks (24-2) will play Cardinal O’Hara, a 58-29 winner over Nardin in the other semi,for the title at 7 p.m. at the Koessler Center.
Jontay Walton almost single-handedly put Holy Angels in the title game with a performance that included 27 points and four assists. She gave Sacred Heart nightmares with her fast break layups and drives to the hole. Walton ends her junior year with a single season league record 662 points, beating the previous mark by an even 100.
“Going in we knew we were going to give them a game,” said Angels coach Fran Snyder, whose team finishes 16-10. “Jontay was really up for this one. She can keep us in the game. She’s had an unbelievable season. Both teams playing tough, it was hard to get really good shot. I’m really proud of them, We almost did it.”
Sacred Heart was led by LaTrice Hall with 15 points. Hannah Rehbaum added 10, including a three-pointer early in the fourth quarter that helped turn the game’s momemtum.
O’Hara takes a 26-0 record and a 57-55 regular-season win Sacred Heart, into the title game.
They had a much easier time eliminating Nardin.
“We had heard that Nardin had some secret plan, we were very curious to see what that was,” said O’Hara coach Dan McDermott. “You hate to talk about it, but look what happened to St. Joe’s the other night, and what happened to us last year in the semis. We still remember that. We had to be on top of our game.”
They were from the opening tip. O’Hara scored 12 points before Nardin could get a shot to fall. It wasn’t until 3:47 remained in the first quarter that Monica Reiser got Nardin on the board with a layup off a steal.
The Hawks led, 14-7 after the first quarter and added to their lead in the second, outscoring Nardin, 16-5. O’Hara’s Kelsey McCarthy scored the first six points of the frame. Sara DiPasquale ended the half making good on four free throws, sending her team into the locker room with a 30-12 lead. They played the second half, but the game was pretty much decided at the break.
“We got off to a big start, which was a big part of what we wanted to do,” said McDermott. “I think that kind of set the tone for the whole game.”
O’Hara was led by Leah McDonell’s 12 points. Aisha Shabazz grabbed 10 rebounds and Keyonte Edwards had nine steals.
Nardin had 10 different scorers, but no one with more than five points. The Gators finished the season 15-11.
O’Hara was giving Nardin the baseline, but few of their shots found the mark. “That’s kind of like fool’s gold, they kind of suck you in there,” said Nardin coach Joe Dougherty. “You can’t key on one person. They’re really a true team inside-outside. They’ve got quickness, they’ve got size, they’re hard to match up with. We had to shoot better and we didn’t do it.”