By Dean Adams
As we all prepare to spring forward our clocks, there will be no moving forward to the State Championship game for the Cardinal O’Hara Lady Hawks.
The Lady Hawks were defeated by The Mary Louis Academy Friday night by a score of 80-70 in front of a packed house at St. John’s Prep in Astoria, NY.
Cardinal O’Hara got off to a flying start in the opening stanza, scoring the first seven points of the ballgame in 51 seconds. The Hilltoppers then went on a 12-1 run spanning four minutes of gameplay. This included five straight points by McDonald’s All-American Danielle Patterson and scoring from four other players. After Senior forward Anndea Zeigler hit a jumper just inside the arc with 7 seconds left in the 1Q, TMLA’s Vanerlie Valcourt took the inbounds pass and somehow heaved the ball in nothing but net from 60 feet out to extend the Hilltoppers lead to 15-10 after one quarter.
The second quarter started the same way as the first. The Lady Hawks attempted to spring ahead a little early by going on a 10-0 run in 1:48 to extend their lead to 20-15 which would be the largest lead they held for the rest of the night. TMLA then went on a 10-1 run of their own to take a 25-21 lead with 4:23 remaining in the first half. As the two teams continued to trade baskets, Cardinal O’Hara managed to pull off some end of the quarter magic themselves with a 5 point swing in 1.7 seconds. After Danielle Patterson pulled up for two from the free throw line, Kiara Johnson converted a three point play to pull the Lady Hawks within six. Then, Nickelle O’Neil stole the inbounds pass and left it in the paint for Robbyn Sommerville, who layed it in at the buzzer to bring the halftime score to 41-37 TMLA at halftime.
The opening of the second half has been a problem for the Lady Hawks in their losses this year. After Danielle Patterson and Kiara Johnson exchanged baskets, the Hilltoppers exploded to a significant 17-0 run to blow the game open late in the 3rd. The scoring duo of Vanerlie Valcourt and Danielle Patterson combined for 14 of the 17 points in the run. Cori Dickson hit a deep trey to keep the game within striking distance. But, TMLA still led on the scoreboard 62-49 after three quarters of play. The Lady Hawks hit just four field goals in the 3Q. O’Hara Head Coach Nick O’Neil explained how his team has been plagued by poor Third Quarter performance.
“What happens is in all of our losses, the start of the third quarter we come out and do what we usually do, and not play well for whatever reason. Maybe I’m not getting them prepared or motivated to come out of halftime. It’s a problem that we need to fix.”
TMLA’s relentless pursuit of rebounds and inexplicable ability to reach the charity stripe (28/41) proved to be too strong for the Lady Hawks to overcome. The Hilltoppers maintained their double digit lead throughout the fourth quarter.
The Lady Hawks were led by Seniors Anndea Zeigler and Shilah Parker, who finished with 23 and 14 points respectively. On the other side, TMLA was led by Danielle Patterson and Vanerlie Valcourt, who scored 29 and 16 points respectively.
Despite the loss, O’Hara coach Nick O’Neil had nothing but praise for the effort today and for the entire season.
“We knew we were in an uphill battle. We knew about the great players they had, especially the kid who’s going to Notre Dame (Patterson), and we got girls like Anndea and Cierra who are four inches shorter than her that really gave her a tough time. I’m very, very proud of my girls. They came out and showed what Buffalo Basketball is all about. Every person who was in the game, from Robbyn to Kiara gave me 110%. We just came up a little bit short. But, we can definitely play with any team in WNY and the Country. TMLA was the #1 team in New York City that we went blow to blow with, and I know that nobody else in WNY could even come forty points close.”
When Anndea Zeigler was asked about the loss, she humbly added, “It wasn’t that upsetting because I gave it all I had. I can’t complain. It was a good season.”