Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — Like most children, Leah McDonell once dreamed of greatness.
On the courts and fields of the Riverside Boys and Girls club, before she moved to the Town of Tonawanda in 2007, the Cardinal O’Hara basketball star cultivated her athletic ability, playing every game the club had to offer. Hockey, lacrosse, soccer or basketball — she just loved to compete.
She always wanted to play against the best players too; especially the boys. Her hunger for competition has only grown since then.
“A lot of people say that I’m so nice outside of basketball, but when I get in the game they’re scared to even talk to me,” she said. “I think I’m just really competitive. Even in school, we played a little Jeopardy game last period and I just have to win. I think it’s just that my motivation to win is so great.”
One day before the games began at camp, McDonell noticed her mentor and camp director, former Cleve-Hill basketball star and Erie Community College Hall of Famer Bob Nowak, paging through a scrap book his daughter had made for him, filled with all the newspaper articles from his playing career.
“I looked up to him and he was showing me these things he’d done,” McDonell said. “I thought how much I want to be able to show someone something like that someday.”
Two Catholic school state championships later, O’Hara’s all-time leading scorer has done it all at the high school level, and is this year’s Tonawanda News girls basketball player of the year. She finished out her career with 1,617 total points, placing her at No. 2 on the Monsignor Martin all-time scoring list.
Her basketball career reads like a laundry list of accomplishments, and just for kicks she became the first O’Hara girls soccer player in history to score 100 goals last November.