St. Mary’s of Lancaster girls basketball coach Jason Kline could see the potential but could he get his Lancers to believe they too had the makings of a special team this season?
The solution: He made the unusual move of scheduling a preseason scrimmage against the team St. Mary’s and everyone else in the Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association have been chasing over the years: Cardinal O’Hara.
He figured if his Lancers could hang in a scrimmage with the five-time defending champions, perhaps that would provide the infusion of confidence he deemed missing in them. That proved to be a wise move, setting the stage for Wednesday night’s attention-getting triumph by St. Mary’s.
The Lancers overcame an early deficit by relying on balanced scoring and a fearless attitude as they defeated O’Hara going away in the latter’s own gym, 67-53. A crowd of a more than 500 watched the clash between the Buffalo News second-ranked large school in St. Mary’s (12-0) and the third-ranked Hawks (8-4).
They all saw the Lancers become the first Monsignor Martin team to beat Cardinal O’Hara since Sacred Heart defeated the Hawks in the 2013 Monsignor Martin championship game. It’s believed to be the first time since Jan. 5, 2011 that St. Mary’s has beaten the Hawks.
This is the second time this season O’Hara has lost to a Western New York team, as Amherst ended the Hawks’ 89-game winning streak against area teams Dec. 5.
The Lancers did it with three players scoring in double figures – led by Parris Maroney’s 17 points. They did it with freshman point guard Shay Ciezki pouring in 12 of her 16 points during the middle quarters in which St. Mary’s seized control as O’Hara dealt with foul trouble to two of its best players in sisters Angel and Aaliyah Parker.
“It took years and years of training, years of developing players and hard work (to get this win),” Kline said. “I’m just proud of the kids and happy for them.”
O’Hara had leads of 5-0 and 10-3 early in the first quarter as it looked as if it was determined to deliver a message to their guest. But the Lancers didn’t let their foe run away with it.
“We talked about home court being a five-point advantage,” Kline said. “At the end of the first we were down four or five. The girls looked at me like we lost the first. I said we didn’t lose the first. I said five points for being at home. All we have to do is beat them each quarter.”
Myla Kline’s three tied the game at 18 with 5:50 left in the second quarter.
Things really got interesting after that with the Hawks’ Angel Parker getting whistled for her third foul with her team leading 21-19. Whether folks agreed or disagreed with the call didn’t matter. It changed up O’Hara’s defensive strategy against Ciezki, whose layup with 4:37 left in the second gave the Lancers their first lead, 22-21. Ciezki’s driving layup with 1:25 left gave St. Mary’s the lead for good. The Lancers led, 31-28, at halftime.
St. Mary’s led by four midway through the third quarter when it went on a 15-2 run to really drive up their confidence meter. Five players scored during the burst that included a three-pointer by junior Lauren Nawojski.
Amelia Strong led the Hawks with 11 points, while Angel Parker added 10.
The rematch is Jan. 31 in Lancaster.
Both teams have some time off until their next game. St. Mary’s visits Sacred Heart on Jan. 14. O’Hara faces Sacred Heart two days later.
“it’s a tough one to take ... but teams are catching up,” O’Hara assistant Mike McCarthy said. “We have to practice harder, we have to play harder. That’s it really because everybody’s gunning for you.”
The same is true now for St. Mary’s.
“I told the girls it’s hard to get to the top,” Kline said. “Once you get there and I’m not saying we’re there, it’s even harder to stay up top because everybody is going to bring their best.”