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It was Friday for Sacred Heart. In other words – payday.

After a few detours this season, all seemed right in the world of Monsignor Martin Association girls basketball when Sacred Heart proved it was money in title games, beating Cardinal O’Hara, 53-33. The title was the Sharks’ fourth in a row. A crowd estimated at 1,200 saw the Hawks (26-1) suffer their first loss of the season at the Koessler Center.

The Hawks looked like a shell of the team that handed Sacred Heart its first loss of the season, 57-55.

“We’ve been watching a lot of film of them in practice and taking the time during our study halls to know where O’Hara plays on defense, where their players are on the floor, so when I tell you we really worked hard to get to where we are, it really paid off, you can tell on the floor,” said the Sharks’ La’Trice Hall, who signed earlier this season with the University of Hartford.

Hall finished with 18 points followed by Kelly Farrell with 13.

The game started off slow as both teams tried to shake off their nerves. O’Hara scored the first two baskets and led almost the entire first quarter. The teams traded baskets until the Sharks’ Chelsea Smith hit a three-pointer with 42 seconds left to tie the game at 10-10. The quarter ended 12-12.

Sacred Heart looked like a different team in the second quarter. A pair of free throws by Smith gave the Sharks a 14-12 lead, and they never trailed again. It was the start of a 7-0 run as the Sharks began to play with more confidence on both ends. They held the Hawks to six points in the second quarter, taking a 24-18 lead into the locker room.

“I told them a halftime – it’s out of my hands now. You guys know how to play this game,” said Sacred Heart coach Sister Maria Pares. “Usually it’s the other way around, we come out in the third quarter and it’s like, ‘where did my team go?’ I told them, just stand under the weakside basket. The ball will come to you.”

The Sharks broke the game open in the third quarter, once again holding O’Hara to single-digit scoring while their offense erupted for 19 points. The Hawks turned the ball over several possessions in a row with the Sharks heading the other way for fastbreak layups. O’Hara was shellshocked.

“This was one bad game in four months, it was just real bad timing,” said O’Hara coach Dan McDermott. “I’m kind of dumbfounded right now. I never in a million years would have expected this. The way we played all season, the schedule we played, we met the challenge each and every time. As soon as it started going a little downhill, it went from bad to worse. I thought we kept playing hard, we just didn’t play smart a lot tonight.”

Sacred Heart used the fourth quarter to build a 20-point lead, and it wasn’t long before the final buzzer saw the frenzied student section storm the court to celebrate the win with their classmates.

O’Hara got 11 points from Keyonte Edwards and 10 from Kelsey McCarthy while Leah McDonell, named South Division MVP in a post-game ceremony, had a rough night with two. The Hawks were also slowed by making only 7-of-19 free throws.

“She was driving hard, she didn’t get as many open looks,” McDermott said of McDonell. “That was part of the problem. The things we were able to do the first time we played them a couple weeks ago, we weren’t able to do tonight.”

Both Sacred Heart and Cardinal O’Hara advance to the New York State Catholic playoffs downstate.

Sacred Heart (26-2) will play in the Class A semifinals on March 8 at 5:45 p.m. against the Brooklyn-Queens diocese winner at St. Dominic’s.

O’Hara will play in the Class B final on March 9 at 3 p.m against the New York City champion at Cardinal Spellman. If Sacred Heart wins, they would join O’Hara at Spellman and play for the title on March 9 at 5 p.m.

No one knows more about winning the big one in the Monsignor Martin Association than Sacred Heart. The Sharks have 19 titles, including an amazing run of 14 straight between 1974-1987.

Cardinal O’Hara barely has a history in deciding games. They have one title to their credit since records were first kept in 1966. Their only title came in 1971, one year before Title IX legislation was passed.

email: mmonnin@buffnews.com