Tonawanda News — Cardinal O'Hara coach Dan McDermott knew that if his Lady Hawks could pull off a Federation semifinal upset over Scholars Academy on Saturday afternoon, the team would get a pleasant surprise before the final against Irvington on Sunday.
The Lady Hawks were the underdogs because leading scorer Keyonte Edwards was still in Western New York recovering after suffering a blood clot in her right arm during O'Hara's victory in the state Class B title game two weeks prior. So on Sunday, Edwards made the trip to Albany and surprised her team shortly before tip off to help cheer it on in the biggest game of the season.
McDermott said emotions were certainly running high.
"It's such a close-knit group," he said. "We talked to Keyonte on the phone right before we took the court in the semifinals, and that was very emotional. To have her there for Sunday's game was even more emotional. It was a very emotional weekend, but to have her there in person, giving support and encouragement from the bench, was a blessing."
With the team's emotional leader in street clothes, the Lady Hawks took on arguably the best basketball team in New York state the past four years. The Bulldogs have captured four straight public league state titles and were in pursuit of their third Federation state title in four seasons.
O'Hara played hard and hung around in the first half, but in the final 16 minutes Irvington's Lexi Martins and Brittni Lai, both committed to Division-1 schools, were too much for the Lady Hawks. The pair helped the Bulldogs to a 65-48 win for the Federation Class B title.
"I couldn't be more proud of the valiant effort the girls put forth," McDermott said. "We gave it our best shot and the kids played tough. The ball didn't seem to want to bounce our way. We had a lot of opportunities but it didn't want to drop for us. I thought the defense was pretty good, the rebounding was pretty good and we kept their big stars in check for the most part, but we needed to score more."