A comeback certainly wasn’t improbable for the Cardinal O’Hara boys basketball team.
But the way the Hawks came back to win against Nichols was striking.
O’Hara scored 24 points in the second quarter of a 70-47 win against Nichols, and allowed the Vikings just one successful shot from the floor in a span of eight minutes in the second quarter, in the Manhattan Cup Class B championship game Saturday at Canisius College.
The fact that the Hawks made only two shots in the first quarter didn’t discourage them. It motivated them as they went into the second.
“It was just being able to keep our heads up when our shots weren’t falling in the first quarter,” O’Hara guard Jermaine Haynes Jr. said. “We had to keep our heads up so we could keep the intensity going. That’s what we did.”
Haynes scored a game-high 26 points and was named the game’s MVP and the Monsignor Martin Division B player of the year.
O’Hara will face Regis of New York City at 11 a.m. Saturday for the NYSCHSAA Class B championship at Fordham University in New York. O’Hara won the Class B Manhattan Cup title in 2016, and is the News’ No. 2-ranked small school.
Rebounding and creating turnovers was key for the Hawks, who trailed 21-11 entering the second quarter.
“That’s one of our MOs,” O’Hara coach Tony Pulvirenti said. “I like to pride ourselves in building a lead, and if you look at it in most games, if your team leads in rebounding, you win those games. We have a long, big, good rebounding team. Nobody should out-rebound us, but you’ve got to want to rebound to do it.”
The Vikings continued to shoot, even as the Hawks mounted their comeback. But good looks at the basket in the second quarter simply weren’t enough for Nichols, which lost a 10-point lead in the second quarter.
In fact, Nichols coach Joe Mihalics had no idea of the number of shots his team missed in the second quarter against O’Hara.
“All I know is that we didn’t score for the first six minutes (of the second quarter),” Mihalics said. “We got looks. We’re at the basket. We get (Christopher) Stineman the ball and that’s what we want, and we’ll do that every single time. It just didn’t go in.”
Down 13-11, Nichols closed the first quarter with an 8-0 run that gave the Vikings a 10-point lead (21-11) lead going into the second, but the Hawks answered with an 11-0 run in the first four minutes of the second to take their first lead of the game at 22-21, on Justin Hemphill’s layup with 4:17 left.
Nichols called a timeout with 4:17 left in the half, but it did nothing to stop O’Hara’s momentum, as the run grew to 21-0, which helped O’Hara take a 35-25 lead at halftime.
Stineman (21 points) made Nichols’ only shot of the second quarter with 21.7 seconds left in the half, and completed a 3-point play after he was fouled by Hemphill.
“We knew they weren’t strong handling the ball, so we just wanted to get the ball out of their hands as soon as possible,” Haynes said. “And Chris Stineman, he’s a great rebounder, and it’s hard to get him out of the paint. We just had to crash the boards, all the time, so we can get those rebounds from him. He was a handful today.”
O’Hara opened its lead to 41-29 a little more than three minutes into the third quarter on Hakim Siner’s thundering dunk, off an outlet pass from Hemphill, then Hemphill opened it to 14 points, seconds later on another dunk.
Even after Hemphill took his fourth foul late in the third, the Hawks took a 47-36 lead into the fourth and led by as many as 21 points in the final eight minutes.
“For some reason, we needed that motivation, to get knocked in the mouth,” Pulvirenti said. “I always use boxer analogies, and they threw the first punch. I think we needed to get hit in the face once to stand up and say, You know, we’ve got to play.’ These guys aren’t going to lie down. This is the championship.”