The matchup between two of Western New York's premier point guards, Jamie Donnelly of Holy Angels and Eva Cunningham of Iroquois was great -- while it lasted.
With Cunningham sitting out the second half after a fluke injury, Donnelly and Co. cruised to a 65-47 victory in the first round of the Kiwanis Club/Lady Lions Classic on Friday.
Cunningham injured her knee trying to beat the first-half buzzer as she heaved a two-handed shot from three-quarters court. She spent the second half on the bench with an ice pack on her left knee. "I think I hyperextended it," said Cunningham, who was walking with a slight limp after the game. "I just fell on it wrong."
The injury ended a first half which was a basketball fan's delight.
Cunningham was all over the floor making six steals, and hitting 5 of 11 shots to finish with 12 points. Donnolly had her share of time in the spotlight. She had 11 first-half points and finished with 21 on 7-of-15 shooting. She's 78 points away from 1,000 for her career. Both players scored their share of points on each other with slashing drives to the basket.
Iroquois coach Jack Hurley said playing without Cunningham was like "chopping your head off." With the Section VI playoffs beginning Tuesday, Hurley said Cunningham wouldn't play tonight unless she was "100 percent."
With Iroquois holding a 32-30 margin after the first half, the second half was all Holy Angels.
The Angels broke the game open outscoring the Chiefs, 23-6, in the third quarter, which included an 18-0 run. Noelle d'Estries (12 points) hit her third three-pointer during that run, giving her 33 for the season, two short of the school record. Donnolly handed out eight assists to crack 600 for her career. Center Megan Bogdan had 11 points and eight rebounds.
The Angels are the only team to beat Iroquois this season. The Chiefs also lost to the Angels, 57-55, on Dec. 3 in the gold bracket championship of the Festival of Lights Tournament.
"I figured this game would go down to the last minute," said Angels coach Mike Del Valle. "Somebody was going to do something to pull it out in the last minute. I think each of them (Donnolly and Cunningham) inspired each other. I knew they were both going to have big games."
Meanwhile, Nardin beat Lockport, 54-39, in the other first-round game to earn a berth in tonight's final. Holy Angels (19-1) plays Nardin (16-5) for the title at 7:30 p.m. Host Lockport (6-14) plays Iroquois (17-2) in the consolation at 6 p.m.
Ashley Williams led the Gators with 17 points and 15 rebounds. Anna Jablonski scored all 11 of her points in the first half to help spot the Gators to a 28-16 halftime lead. Nardin led by as many as 18 in the fourth before playing its bench. Allison Depp had 21 points for the Lions.
"We have this third chance (to play Holy Angels), and hopefully we'll have a fourth chance later in the year," said Nardin coach Jake Herlihy. "I think we're one of the few teams in Western New York who can beat them. If we play well, we have a chance."