By Matt Parrino
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — No Cardinal O'Hara girls basketball team led by 13-year coach Dan McDermott had ever beaten league-rival Sacred Heart.
Until Tuesday night, that is.
The Lady Hawks survived a wild, back-and-forth fourth quarter and a late Sharks comeback bid to clinch their first win, 57-55, over Sacred Heart since 1991.
McDermott knew it would take his team's best effort to pull off the victory.
"This game was everything," he said. "It might sound ridiculous for me to say but it went exactly how I thought it would go. I was hoping we would play to make it be this type of game, because they're that good. They have the history behind them and for it to come down like it did — it was expected."
The Lady Hawks led 56-50 with 90 seconds left when the Sharks scored five quick points and gained possession with under a minute to go. After a traveling violation, O'Hara's Kayla Brown, playing in her second game back from injury, drove into the lane to find Sara DiPasquale (North Tonawanda), but she couldn't convert.
Sacred Heart went to the free throw line with under a minute to go, but couldn't make the first free throw on a one and one. After a missed O'Hara free throw with under 20 seconds left, the Sharks attempted a cross-court pass just over the half court line, but Edwards made a clutch play, stepping into the passing lane to record her fifth steal of the game. She dribbled the length of the floor, was fouled and hit one of two free throws to secure the win.
Edwards got the Lady Hawks going in the first (seven points) and played big in the fourth (nine points), finishing with a team-high 17 points.
She said the magnitude of the game was not lost on O'Hara and she took it upon herself, as a leader, to contribute when her teammates needed her most.
"In the first quarter I came out hot and then I kind of slowed down and tried to get some of my teammates involved. But when I saw the score was getting closer I knew I had to step up for my team and come up big," she said. "I knew that somebody was going to have to score. I was playing defense as best as I could and I got the steal, made the 'And-1,' and hit my free throws."
McDermott said that Edwards' offensive game has flourished this season. It's helped her become a leader and now she sets the tone for her team.
"I just can't say enough about Keyonte and the way she has come on," he said. "It's been every game and a constant right from the start of the season. She's become a complete player."
Leah McDonell (Tonawanda), the school's all-time leading scorer, returned against the Sharks after sitting out last game against Christian Central Academy with concussion-like symptoms. She was cleared to play and McDermott said O'Hara is now the healthiest it has been all season.
After picking up two early fouls, McDonell missed most of the second quarter, but she returned in the third and left her imprint on the game in the second half. She finished with only eight points and four steals, but her hustle and defensive pressure frustrated Sacred Heart ball handlers and forced them to make extra passes.
DiPasquale and Kelsey McCarthy really controlled the boards on both ends of the floor. DiPasquale scored eight points and had nine rebounds, while McCarthy finished with 13 points and eight boards.
McDermott had two objectives for his team heading into the game: Win the battle of the boards and stop Sacred Heart from getting out in transition.
"We knew (controlling the glass) would be key," he said. "That hurt us both games last year when they did some damage on us on the offensive glass. … I think, especially at the beginning of the game, it was pretty evident that was what our girls were trying to do."
Edwards is hoping this win will earn the Lady Hawks some respect, but said it's been an amazing experience playing with a team that's so unselfish.
"We just want to share the ball and get the win," she said. "People always say, 'How do you only play with eight players?' But of us eight nobody wants to come out. Everybody wants to play. It's really fun."Contact sports editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.