The Cardinal O’Hara girls basketball team couldn’t initially find its tempo on offense.
But Aaliyah Parker noticed that as the game went on, her team’s communication grew stronger. As a result, the Hawks made defense an emphasis, and Parker and her team saw an uptick in its offensive production.
A little more talking made all the difference for the Hawks in a 62-47 win against St. Mary’s of Lancaster, in the Class AA Monsignor Martin championship game Friday at Villa Maria Academy.
“We were mainly focusing on defense and so we were just talking, and all the energy went into the shooting,” said Parker, who scored 15 points for the Hawks. “We started to get onto our shots.”
Amelia Strong scored 14 points and Robbyn Sommerville added 10 for the Hawks, who advance to New York State Catholic High Schools Athletic Association playoffs.
O’Hara won its sixth straight Monsignor Martin championship, but lost to three local teams this year – Amherst, Williamsville South and St. Mary’s – after going five seasons without losing to a Western New York team.
Against St. Mary’s on Friday, the Hawks struggled to find their scoring touch early, but still put the Lancers in a 10-point hole in the first six minutes, a hole that got deeper as the game progressed. Shay Ciezki scored 18 points for St. Mary’s, which led only once, at 4-3 three minutes into the game, and trailed by as many as 20 points in the third quarter.
“In the first quarter, we had a couple really nice sets for good looks, and we missed them,” St. Mary's coach Jason Kline said. “And then, when you’re playing a great team and you give up that early lead and you’re playing catch-up from behind, it changes the offensive flow.
“You start pressing a bit, you start trying a little too hard to catch up, and I think that’s what happened. We got down early, played catch-up the rest of the game. We tried to put in a run, but we played a great team.”
O’Hara and St. Mary’s went a combined 3 for 12 from the floor in the first 5:30 of the game, as O’Hara took an 11-8 lead into the second quarter, after Strong took an inside pass for a layup with less than 12 seconds left in the quarter.
Even with a 3-for-11 shooting effort in the first quarter, O’Hara used a 15-3 run that bridged the first and second quarters to open its lead to 23-11 with 1:55 left in the first half. But that run wasn’t as much overwhelming as it was methodical; at one point, the Hawks went more than two minutes between field goals.
Meanwhile, Myla Kline (10 points) made St. Mary’s only shot in the middle of that run, a 3-pointer with 3:08 left in the half, and the Lancers’ first field goal in more than five minutes of play, and O’Hara took a 25-14 lead at halftime.
Right around that time, Parker noticed a change in her team.
“In the second quarter, we had a talk and we told each other that we wanted to keep playing, keep talking and do what we do,” said Parker, who had seven points at halftime, as her team shot 8 for 27 in the first half. “It was right before halftime, and then at the start of the third quarter.”
St. Mary’s didn’t fare much better in the first half, going 4 for 19 from the floor.
The Lancers cut it to nine at 43-34 less than three minutes into the fourth on Parris Maroney’s layup, which forced the Hawks to call a timeout with 5:12 left.
That was as close as the Lancers got.
“We put a nice little run in the second half where we just tried to throw it at them, but we just used all of our energy and all of our passion early in the game,” Jason Kline said. “It brought us close, but we couldn’t quite get over the hump."