Tonawanda News —
Both the Cardinal O'Hara and Jamestown girls basketball teams put their undefeated seasons on the line Friday night in a non league showdown between two of the premier teams in Western New York.
The game was delayed 90 minutes while Jamestown waited for a backup bus after theirs broke down, but the game was well worth the wait for everyone in attendance.
After 24 minutes, the two teams were deadlocked in a 47-47 tie, trading punches in what was beginning to look like an instant classic. But the Lady Hawks landed the knockout punch in the fourth quarter.
O'Hara's defensive pressure wore down the Red Raiders as the Lady Hawks outscored Jamestown, 29-10, in the final frame en route to a decisive 76-57 win.
"We had to keep turning up the defensive pressure," said O'Hara coach Dan McDermott, who thought his team didn't play up to expectations in the first half. "From Day One of practice, we've been preaching to play fast, play fast, play fast — maybe that took its toll on Jamestown by the end of the game. Maybe they wore down a little bit and we were a little bit stronger at the end. That's the way we want to play and we like to make things uncomfortable for the other team, and it starts with defensive pressure."
O'Hara was relentless in passing lanes and on the ball once the Red Raiders crossed half court. The Lady Hawks finished with 17 steals in the game, and if not for some missed lay ups and shots off turnovers in the second quarter, they may have led at the break.
But Jamestown held the lead at halftime, 34-32. In fact, the Lady Hawks never held a lead in the opening 16 minutes. Jamestown went on a 10-4 run to open the game and O'Hara was forced to play catchup after that.
"I thought we did a good job against their pressure in the first half," said Jamestown coach Tim Anderson. "We got layups off it if we ran and did the right things. We just started forcing the issue and dribbling side to side instead of attacking their defense (in the second half)."
Jamestown leading scorer Chrisanna Green (21.6 points per game) dominated in the first half for the Red Raiders, scoring 14 of her game-high 18 points. She demonstrated her ball handling, rebounding ability and scoring touch to keep O'Hara off balance.
But the second half was a different story.
O'Hara senior Keyonte Edwards did an excellent job frustrating Green after halftime, and the Lady Hawks used their quickness to make every Red Raider that touched the ball in the half court have to work to find a teammate or find dribble room.
The Lady Hawks seemed ready to pull ahead in the third quarter when they started the period on an 11-3 run, but the Red Raiders hung tough. Jamestown guard Anne Campion hit two of her four 3-pointers in the final minute of the third quarter to tie the game heading into the fourth.
With the game in the balance and both teams looking for someone to step up, O'Hara's Aisha Shabazz accepted the challenge. She scored five straight points to lead O'Hara on a 8-2 run to all but clinch the game.
The Lady Hawks finished the game on a 15-2 run.
"We had been encouraging everybody on the bench throughout the game to step up," McDermott said. "We felt like we weren't playing our best and Aisha took it to heart. I'm very happy with what she gave us this game. With people like Keyonte, Kelsey (McCarthy) and Jailyn (Dickson), many times Aisha gets overlooked. Tonight she did what we needed her to do and I couldn't be happier for her."
The Lady Hawks were without freshman sensation Anndea Zeigler, and Shabazz said she knew she had to help fill in for her on both ends of the floor.
"Coach said yesterday that he needs somebody to step up and help take over for her points that she scores. I said I could do that," Shabazz said. "The whole thing was to keep the team in the game and do whatever I had to do."
Shabazz tied for a team-high 16 points with senior Jontay Walton, who continues to impress in her first season with O'Hara after transferring from Holy Angels. She also scored 16 points and had four steals.
Walton said the Lady Hawks had a great talk at halftime to adjust to how Jamestown was dealing with her team's pressure. She said it's a big win and it's nice to be able to count on teammates in big games.
"We got our entire team involved and a lot of key players stepped up," she said. "It is a great feeling to know we have competition, and we have to come out and play our best — even though we play our best every time. They are are a good team and to beat them is a really great accomplishment. We came out and wanted to win — with our heart and competitiveness — and we did what we needed to do."
Kelsey McCarthy posted a double-double in the win, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Edwards had 11 points and three steals, while Dickson had a team-high five steals and scored all of her 10 points in the fourth quarter.
Next up for O'Hara is Mount St. Mary's as the Lady Hawks begin their league schedule on Monday.Follow @tonanewssports and sports editor @MattParrino on Twitter for complete high school sports coverage.