HICKSVILLE — When things looked dire, Cardinal O’Hara and Mount Mercy did what teams with championship dreams must do – overcome adversity.
Their reward? State Catholic championships and a trip to Albany.
O’Hara (25-3) rallied from an early 13-2 deficit, and Kelsey McCarthy returned from a first-quarter ankle injury to score 10 of her 12 points in the second half to help the Hawks pull out a nail-biting 62-59 triumph over Kellenberg Memorial in the state Catholic Class A final Saturday.
Jontay Walton (15 points), who earlier in the game surpassed 2,000 career points, sank two free throws with 50.7 seconds left to break a 58-58 tie. She then made a steal with 10 seconds left with the Hawks nursing a one-point lead. While she missed both free throws after being fouled, teammate Keyonte Edwards (15 points) tipped in the second miss for the final margin.
“It’s just a huge accomplishment from a standpoint that we are a small school. … To go and win this Class A championship is ground-breaking for our area and school,” said coach Dan McDermott, whose Hawks won state Catholic titles the last two seasons in Class B and lost in last year’s Federation final. “We found a way to win.”
As did Mount Mercy, which used a 12-2 fourth quarter to pull out a 35-33 triumph in Class B over Good Counsel. It’s the Magic’s first title since 2009.
The champions advanced to the Federation Tournament, which begins March 21 in Albany.
O’Hara used its press to pull within two at halftime. It drew even (45-45) on Edwards’ layup off a steal just before the end of the third quarter. Four players scored in double figures. Cori Dickson finished with 10 points for O’Hara.
Walton now has 2,010 points in her career.
Courtney Kaczor’s second trey gave Mercy (20-7) a 34-33 lead with under a minute left. Jessica Alvira (nine points) scored half of the Magic’s 12 points in the fourth. Emily Sheehan led the winners with 10 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
Mercy pressed the whole game, holding GC to zero first-quarter points.
“It just shows the great character of the 12 girls on the team,” Magic coach John Glose said. “We’ve been working to build the program back up. This is a great start.”