Daemen College was the venue in the latest clash of WNY girls basketball super powers Sunday night. Monsignor Martin’s Cardinal O’Hara and Section VI’s Williamsville South did not disappoint before an almost capacity crowd, with the Lady Hawks pulling out a 53-41 victory.
Mia McCarthy poured in 19 points in the win which included two daggers from beyond the arc late in the fourth quarter. McCarthy scratched and clawed her way for loose balls and rebounds throughout the night as she made a good case for All-WNY first team against one of the top programs in the area.
“We expected a physical game, we have a good rivalry with South,” McCarthy said after the game. “We know we’re playing with a target on our backs so it’s nice to come in here and get the dub.”
It was a slow start for the Lady Billies who hit just one shot in the first six minutes of the game. Their top player and University of Connecticut commit, Amari DeBerry, was held to just five points.
“All the credit to Nick and O’Hara tonight, they were the better team for four quarters,” South head coach Kristen Dolan said. “We had a tough time getting into a rhythm early on and struggled to make shots. They were very tough and a great opponent. We have to learn from this and get ready for a difficult stretch coming up, starting with Amherst on Tuesday.”
O’Hara (7-2) smothered DeBerry anytime she was near the ball. “When you face an opponent like Will South you know you are going against one of the premier players in the area,” Nick O’Neil, the Hawks head coach, said. “Our girls were very aggressive but smart. That is a very good opponent and it’s a big win for the program.”
The Lady Hawks took a 22-15 lead into halftime and seemed to be in control for most of the game.
Things would heat up in the second half, particularly when senior guard Riley Domin nailed a three pointer in the third quarter to pull Will South to within 4, but moments later McCarthy jacked a three of her own for the Hawks. O’Neil effectively used his bench throughout and was rewarded for his faith in 5’1″ junior Gianna Padula, who buried a three pointer early in the fourth quarter to extend O’Hara’s lead to 36-30.
After South’s Renee Ramoni knocked down her short range jumper, Domin struck again from downtown to make it a 36-35 score.
McCarthy would respond, 39-35 Hawks.
The Billies didn’t go quietly, tying the game at 39, but the Hawks were just too strong. Clutch free throw shooting by Jade Rutledge, Aaliyah Parker and two big buckets from Courtney McClaney in the fourth quarter, along with McCarthy’s overall performance, were ultimately too much for South on this night.
McCarthy finished with a game-high 19 points and Amelia Strong finished with a double-double, pouring in 12 and collecting 12 rebounds for the Hawks.
Hannah Dolan led Williamsville South with 15 points while Ramoni had 10.
Prior to tip-off DeBerry was presented a plaque from USA Basketball for her participation over the summer with the U16 National Team that won Gold in Puerto Aysen, Chile.
“The talent level in this area for women’s basketball has never been better,” O’Neil said. “What you see now and what’s coming is going to put Western New York on the map.”
The game was attended by a number of local college coaches and even a couple from Section V.
The same two teams will play again on February 21st at O’Hara to close out the regular season.