ALBANY -- Cardinal O'Hara had its season end Sunday afternoon to one of the best high school girls basketball programs the state has ever seen.
Four-time reigning public school champion Irvington of Westchester County won its third overall Federation state title in four years by beating O'Hara, 65-48, today before an estimated 250 at the Times Union Center.
Senior 6-footer Lexi Martins earned MVP honors after putting forth a 22-point, 16-rebound performance despite serious foul trouble (three in the first half) while outstanding senior point guard Brittni Lai had 15 points, four assists and four steals for the Bulldogs, who have won 105 games over the last four seasons.
Cardinal O'Hara was led by senior Leah McDonell, who had 13 points (on 5-of-18 shooting) and was named to the All-Tournament team, and junior forward Kelsey McCarthy, who scored 12 on 6-of-10 shooting and had 11 rebounds. Junior guard Aisha Shabazz added nine points, senior forward Sara DiPasaquale had six points and six rebounds and senior guard Kayla Brown had five points and four steals.
O'Hara injured standout Keyonte Edwards, who was unable to be on hand for the Hawks' semifinal victory here Saturday morning, was on hand to support her team. She surprised her teammates in the locker room for the team's pregame meeting and spent the game seated on the bench just after the coaches, cheering and encouraging her teammates.
The Hawks trailed, 15-8, after the first quarter but made a game of it in the second, when it appeared they would be in the contest the entire way. Martins picked up her third foul with 5:41 left in the second quarter, and with two minutes to go until halftime, O'Hara was within 24-22.
But the Bulldogs closed the half with a 6-0 spurt to take a still precarious lead of 30-22 to halftime. in the third quarter, Irvington displayed the kind of basketball that has earned it piles of plaques and ribbons the last four years.
Martins scored Irvington's first eight points of the third quarter as it opened a 38-26 lead. Two of the baskets came after wonderful hot-potato ball movement which left Martins in the lane with a good shot opportunity.
Then it was Lai's turn, making a steal and layup, and then a three-pointer swished from the left side to put Irvington up, 43-26, with 3:20 left in the third. Irvington kept its cushion to the end of the quarter as it took a 53-35 lead to the fourth, where the lead would hit 19.
Cardinal O'Hara played inspired basketball without one of its best players.
Now they get to do it again tomorrow.
Playing without standout junior Keyonte Edwards, the Cardinal O'Hara girls basketball team dug out of an early hole and went on to a 66-54 victory over Scholars Academy in the state Federation Tournament of Champions Class B semifinals at the Times Union Center.
Edwards did not make the trip due to a blood clot in her right shoulder. The 5-foot-9 junior averages 15 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 4.0 steals.
Senior Leah McDonell and junior Kelsey McCarthy each had 18 points as O'Hara (28-1) advanced to Sunday's 1 p.m. state Federation championship game against public school champion Irvington (23-2).
O'Hara fell behind, 11-4, to start the game, but closed the first quarter with a 10-2 run, capped by a McDonell three in the final minute, to take a 14-13 lead. The Hawks used its quickness -- namely from 5-4 senior Kayla Brown (five steals) and the 5-5 McDonell (four) to consistently cause turnovers and hurry up Scholars' shots (20 of 50 for 40 percent).
The teams exchanged the lead in the second quarter before O'Hara used a 10-0 run to go up, 28-21. Scholars cut the lead to 28-25, but O'Hara closed the half with three straight baskets in what would be a 6-1 spurt resulting in a 34-26 halftime lead.
In the third, Brown added a three that pushed the Hawks lead to nine (41-32) and O'Hara would head to the fourth with a 47-36 advantage. Scholars surged back with a 13-6 run to come within 53-49 with 3:33 to go, but McDonell hit two free throws to push the O'Hara lead to six. Scholars junior Jessica Glaz (team-high 18 points, 10 rebounds) scored to make it a four-point game again (55-51), but she fouled out seconds later, with 3:09 left.
O'Hara closed the game with a 15-3 run that started with two Dickson free throws and a three by Brown that put the Hawks up, 60-51, with less than two minutes to play.
McDonell had 18 points on 5-of-15 shooting, including 3 of 7 from three-point range and 5 of 6 at the free throw line. McCarthy, the 6-1 forward, got her 18 on 7-of-15 shooting and she had six rebounds while fellow front-courter, 6-foot senior Sara DiPasquale, had five points, 10 rebounds and two steals. Aisha Shabazz, a 5-6 junior, had nine points, 13 rebounds, four assists and two steals. Brown had eight points, as did 5-8 junior Jailyn Dickson (five rebounds, three steals).
In the live chat below, Edwards said she would be on hand Sunday to support her teammates.
Look for more on O'Hara's win in the Sunday paper.
We'll be back tomorrow for another live blog and postgame PrepTalkTV video.
Sunday's semifinals at Canisius College 4-St. Mary's (19-6) vs. 1-Canisius (20-4), 6 p.m. 3-Bishop Timon-St. Jude (12-13) vs. 2-St. Joe's (20-5), 7:30 p.m. Championship
Wednesday at Canisius College, 7 p.m.
MONSIGNOR MARTIN GIRLS PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
Saturday's quarterfinals at Canisius College 1-Cardinal O'Hara vs. 8-Nichols, 10 a.m. 4-Nardin vs. 5-Christian Central, 11:30 a.m. 2-Sacred Heart vs. 7-Mount Mercy, 1 p.m. 3-Holy Angels vs. 6-Mount St. Mary, 2:30 p.m. Semifinals: Tuesday at Canisius College, 6 & 7:45 p.m. Championship
Fri. March 1 at Canisius College, 7 p.m.
Cardinal O'Hara coach Dan McDermott and standouts Kelsey McCarthy and Aisha Shabazz talk about how the Hawks, ranked first in The News small school poll, came through to win a close game at Lockport, which is ranked first among large schools, at the Lockport Kiwanis Shootout.
For this week's PrepTalkTV Weekly -- which you can see right here tonight at 9 -- we'll welcome a team fresh off one of the biggest wins in school history (and that's any sport). We'll have the Cardinal O'Hara girls team on one night after beating Sacred Heart in a battle of Western New York's No. 1s.
And yes, we said the team. Part of the reason that O'Hara is a great story -- besides its undefeated record -- is that there are just eight players on the team, so they'll all be on hand along with coach Dan McDermott.
We'll have another loaded show of highlights from boys and girls hoops as well as hockey, wrestling and swimming -- including a couple of "[BN] The Locker Room" videos of coaches' pregame speeches. We'll also have more highlights in PrepTalkTV Rewind as well our weekly look at the boys basketball polls and a look ahead to this weekend and beyond.
As usual after PrepTalkTV Weekly, I'll have a live chat following the show.
Here's a rundown of the show:
0:00 -- Opening, discussion of McShea's Prep Talk column on Depew Boys & Girls Club
3:10 -- Interview with Cardinal O'Hara girls basketball team, including coach Dan McDermott, senior Leah McDonell and junior Keyonte Edwards
13:40 -- Clarence hockey's win over Frontier, featuring [BN] The Locker Room footage of coach Rick Brooks
18:30 -- Canisius boys swimming dominates St. Joe's to start strong weekend
21:45 -- Canisius boys basketball moves to No. 1 in The News poll and the state Class A poll; featuring [BN] The Locker Room with coach Kyle Husband from Friday's win at Timon
25:50 -- Look at this week's boys basketball polls
28:10 -- PrepTalkTV Rewind (St. Francis wrestling, Iroquois girls basketball, a special guest star on the Bucky & Sully show), followed by discussion of concussions in football and a mention of locals on National Signing Day
35:55 -- Discussion of this weekend's big championship wrestling meets
38:05 -- A look ahead to upcoming action from Thursday to Tuesday; closing.
Tonight's major matchup we'll be on hand for is a girls hoops game, and it is a huge one in the Monsignor Martin Association: No. 1 small schoolCardinal O'Hara vs. No. 1 large school Sacred Heart at 6:30 p.m. at Villa Maria College.
It is also a full night of #preptalkscores. On the boys side, there are several key matchups, starting with a Yale Cup I showdown of ranked small and large schools as East plays at McKinley at 6 p.m. At 6:30 p.m., Niagara Falls looks to end its two-game losing streak when it returns to Niagara Frontier League play at Kenmore West at 6:30 p.m. A fine meeting between ranked schools has new No. 1 large school Canisius at No. 4 small school Nichols at 7:30. In the Niagara-Orleans League, Roy-Hart is at Newfane at 6:30 p.m. Also at 7:30, old ECIC III buddies meet when Maryvale plays at Depew at 7:30 p.m.
I'll have play-by-play updates from O'Hara-Sacred Heart in the live blog below and I'll also be providing #preptalkscores updates on Twitter (those will also appear in the blog).
Your tweets with the hashtag #preptalkscores are welcome -- they will appear in the live blog as well. Every night, scoring update tweets (in any sport) are welcome to those on Twitter -- just use the #preptalkscores hashtag.
Check our scoreboard page for a complete schedule of tonight's games; the scoreboard will be updated as we receive game reports throughout the evening.
It's a pretty nice lineup of high school action tonight. Lauren Mariacher and I will be hitting at least a few stops tonight.
We'll both be starting our night at the 6 p.m. girls basketball game as No. 1 small school Cardinal O'Hara takes on No. 6 large school Nardin at Canisius High School.
Other possible stops on a busy night: Also at 6, McKinley hosts Middle Early College in a boys basketball matchup of ranked schools; at 7, the St. Joe's and Canisius hockey teams go at it at Northtown Center; at 8 p.m., St. Joe's basketball hosts Bishop Kearney of Rochester. There are also some key ECIC II boys hoops games as Hamburg heads to Sweet Home and Williamsville South plays at Iroquois.
I'll have updates from games in the live blog below either directly in the blog or by using #preptalkscores updates on Twitter that will appear in the blog.
If it's the last Saturday of August, it must be Scrimmage Saturday, and we must be on our way to seeing as much football action as we can.
We'll be bopping around Western New York today -- as we have the last two years -- to catch as much football as we can in a limited time.
Disclaimer/explainer: Regular visitors to the blog know how much I love it when fans cite scrimmages as evidence for one team being better than another during the regular season, especially when it comes to the discussion of our polls. Just because I'm interested in all of the scrimmages (and getting to as many as I can), and learning about teams and players, they are still scrimmages. Once the season starts, I don't want to hear about them. :-)
If you're out and about like we are today, we want your reviews and breakdowns of what you saw. Keep it in context -- try and notice which first-team units are out there and what the teams are trying to do. Be sure to comment here our on our Facebook page, tweet us at @KeithMcSheaBN or send an email.
8:34 a.m. We are on our way. I met up with photographer Mark Mulville at One News Plaza and we're headed to Cheektowaga for our kickoff.
Eden, Springville, Tonawanda and West Seneca East are visiting Cheektowaga. We're planning a quick stop before heading nearby to Cleveland Hill.
9:22 a.m. Great start to the day for us -- and for Eden. The Raiders, known for their ground-and-pound-and win formula, threw for two touchdowns against Cheektowaga -- including one on the first play of the scrimmage! -- and added in another touchdown as we were leaving.
We were on hand for some warmups before things got started, with Tonawanda coach Rob Gross asking his team, quite loudly, "What's this half-speed!? Why are we doing anything half speed?!"
After a fairly lenghty prepractice address by the officials, we got started as the head referee said, "Rock and roll, Scott," to Cheektowaga coach Scott Zipp.
And early misstep by Cheektowaga against Eden prompted a "Do your job!" admonition from an assistant coach to a player.
On the other half of the field, West Seneca East scored a TD against Tonawanda.
And let's go to the video:
Above is our first play of our season as West Seneca East got things off and running against Tonawanda.
Talk about a great start for Eden. This is their first play as their offense went against Cheektowaga.
A nice run for Eden.
9:30 a.m. Just about to pull in to Cleveland Hill. (Reminder for any hey-buddy-keep-your-hands-on-the-wheel fans: Mulville is driving).
9:37 a.m. iPhone update from Cleve Hill, where they haven't started due to Silver Creek being late. This may screw up some of our travel plans. We'll see.
9:48 a.m. Official addresses teams: "Next week it starts for real, today's for fun."
10:24 a.m. Back in Mulville's Honda heading north to Lockport. It's a super bummer that Cleve Hill was behind because we're a half hour off the ideal schedule I had set up for the day. That's alright. Every game (and every assignment) isn't going to go as planned and you've got to make those key adjustments, right?
On the bright side, we saw the first-stringers for all four teams at Cleve Hill. The defenses ruled the first round as a fired-up Silver Creek unit bottled up Burgard and the Cleve Hill defense kept Cardinal O'Hara out of the end zone.
Daryl Spencer had a nice sack for a big loss for Cleve Hill on defense, then looked very good with some rollout completions on offense. Zeddie Williams, who should be the feature back after the graduation of older brother Zach, looked solid out of the backfield for Silver Creek. Burgard also had some very solid run stops.
Here are the top videos from Cleve Hill:
10:36 a.m. It's a long trip to Lockport. We're just on to Transit from Millersport & the I-990. Six top programs in action up at Emmet Belknap Intermediate: St. Francis, Sweet Home, North Tonawanda, Williamsville South, Grand Island and the host Lions.
Trying to plot out a backup plan -- a main stop for us is Orchard Park, which is hosting Canisius in a scrimmage that started at 10.
11:02 a.m. Got to Lockport in time to catch the tail end of Jordan Johnson of Sweet Home leading the offense against Will South. Johnson and Sweet Home looked to be moving the ball fairly effectively -- he had a touchdown pass to the far left side of the field called back on a penalty. We didn't see a ton of Sweet Home against Will South but we saw a few more plays against Lockport.
Williamsville South and Grand Island were paired up on the other end and there were some hard hits, including a busted play for South that almost resulted in a hit on coach Kraig Kurzanski, who was in the customary coaches' spot behind the huddle.
St. Francis finished strong on defense against Grand Island and then paired up with North Tonawanda. I caught the second half of that pairing, with NT making some nice stops on defense.
Here's our best video from Lockport:
11:31 a.m. We're on the road again, heading south and hoping to fit in a stop at Riverside but that might not be a great decision with OP are key final stop.
11:37 a.m. Just talked to PrepTalkTV partner Lauren Mariacher at Canisius. The first-stringers are done there -- she has video and interviews from there so I might not go down there. I think we'll head to Riverside.
11:40 a.m. Just checked in with Lauren again. Canisius and OP will be on the field for another hour, so Mark and I are going to squeeze in a visit to Riverside, which is hosting McKinley, Bishop Timon-St. Jude and Maple Grove.
Even if we stay just a few moments, we'll be able to get some video, photos and some looks at the teams. Right now we've seen 14 teams in three stops.
With Scrimmage Saturday, it's certainly about quantity, not quality.
11:54 a.m. And JUST when we think we've come up with a great plan, we pull into the Riverside parking lot and pass a kid wearing orange-and-black carrying his shoulder pads out.
"That's not a good sign," says Mark.
It wasn't. The Riverside field was empty.
The kid was from McKinley. Arghhhhhhh.
If I wrote what I'm feeling right now, I'd get an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Maybe two.
Off to OP. Arrrrrrgh. Sigh.
1 p.m. We caught the very end of the Canisius scrimmage at Orchard Park, did some interviews and filmed an intro for PrepTalkTV. Lauren Mariacher is working on that and it'll be posted later today.
I'm headed back to One News Plaza to get some more videos and details posted before heading out to evening scrimmages at Iroquois and Amherst.
More updates to come ...
3:02 p.m. Here is the finished PrepTalkTV product (now starring on the buffalonews.com home page):
3:49 p.m. I've posted a bunch of video here, and I'll have more to come from the six-team Lockport scrimmage as well as some from my next two stops -- Iroquois and Amherst.
4:26 p.m. Hello from the awesome back field setting at Iroquois.
5:40 p.m. Note to football coaches and athletic directors. If you want Prep Talk hanging out at your scrimmage for a long time, have it at night :-).
Got a good long look -- along with the Prep Talk blog's "Milt Latimer" -- at Lackawanna, Frontier, Iroquois and Niagara-Wheatfield, seeing all of their first-strings go at in in their second go-round of '1's.
Lackawanna was very impressive with Keith Taggart leading the way not only at running back but on defense. Some big hits there.
Niagara-Wheatfield sure looked the part, sporting uniforms which looked ready for gameday, right down to every player's pulled-up red calf socks with a black Falcon logo on them. Coming off a winless season and with a new coach in Tim Hagerty, the program looks like it has a little spark. The sideline was extremely into the final offensive session against Iroquois in the first go-round.
Iroquois and Frontier both had good spurts in their session against each other, some nice run stuffs and scoring drives. Frontier got a spark on its offensive series after it made a change at quarterback.
It looked like a productive scrimmage for all four teams.
Here are the video highlights, which were included the best stuff I saw all day:
With six stops and 20 teams seen, now I'm off to Amherst for the final stop of the day.
6:25 p.m. Arrived at Amherst, which is hosting West Seneca West, Kenmore East and Hutch-Tech.
7:09 p.m. Saw some nice play at Amherst's Dimp Wagner Alumni Field, where it appeared that the hosts were the top unit -- not too surprising based on last season and the Tigers' returning experienced players, but certainly impressive nonetheless. Amherst is very fast, and they showed it off on both sides of the ball against a West Seneca West unit that made a few unforced errors, including some turnovers on offense. The Tigers had one player sprint from the backside to chase down a run, and also sped to big gains off of short passes.
Hutch-Tech had some nice run stops and moved the ball better than Kenmore East did in their two series.
And check this out -- I call it a day and walk off the field, and as I walk out of the gate, I run into Tonawanda coach Rob Gross. He was the first coach I saw this morning, and the last coach I see as I leave. Can't make this stuff up.
I think that gives us a very strong finish to our Scrimmage Saturday -- looks like we're ready to go for next weekend.
Go to the Prep Talk Live page for blogging, video and photos from both of tonight's Monsignor Martin championships at Ralph Wilson Stadium (as well as this weekend's Far West Regionals from All High Stadium).
Let us know what you thought of the game in the comments section.
Keith McShea has covered high school sports at The News since his hiring in 1999. The 1995 University at Buffalo graduate and Long Island native (North Babylon Bulldogs) covers — and live blogs — everything from scrimmages to state championships & helps head The News' All-Western New York selections.
Lauren Nicole Mariacher joined The News in 2009 after graduating from the Columbia University School of Journalism. The Elma native and Iroquois graduate can usually be found on a sideline, capturing highlights for PrepTalkTV. She also hosts Prep Talk's weekly live show, with Keith McShea, as well as The News' live postgame Bills show — [BN]TheHuddle.