Tonawanda News — When Dan McDermott took over as head girls basketball coach at Cardinal O’Hara in 1999, the program was flatlining.
He found out his first day on the job that he might not even be able to put a varsity squad on the court.
“The program was down, and that is an understatement,” McDermott said. “My first year when I started, I sat down and talked with the AD at the time, and it was so far down she told me that we were going to be a JV only program.”
Luckily for McDermott and Cardinal O’Hara, the Lady Warriors varsity team survived, and now, 15 years later, the O’Hara program is the crown jewel of Western New York girls high school basketball.
After capturing its first Monsignor Martin Association championship in over 40 years on March 1, O’Hara secured its third-straight state Catholic school title last Saturday with a 62-59 win over Kellenberg Memorial. After Class B titles in 2012 and 2013, the Lady Hawks moved up to Class A this season, but the results were still the same.
“It was wild. We did not play well at the beginning and we found ourselves down 13-2 right off the bat,” McDermott said. “They were a very good team, and when you get to this point all the teams are going to be very good.”
O’Hara senior Kelsey McCarthy suffered an ankle injury early on and the Hawks seemed to be doomed, going against a Kellenberg team led by a center who was McCarthy’s assignment on defense and is set to play D-I basketball at St. Joseph’s next season.
But McCarthy got some treatment and limped her way back onto the court late in the first half. She scored 10 of her 12 points in the second half and her determination rubbed off on her teammates.