By Matt Parrino
The Tonawanda News
TOWN OF TONAWANDA — Monday was a long day for Leah McDonell. She woke up, took a couple tests and then prepared for a game she and her teammates have been anticipating all season.
But shorty after tip off in a 6 p.m. Monsignor Martin league game against Mount Mercy, she was finally able to exhale.
That's because McDonell, from Tonawanda, scored the first basket of the game, which was all she needed to move into the No. 1 spot on the Cardinal O'Hara all-time leading scorer's list, where she currently stands with 1,362 points. The Lady Hawks beat Mt. Mercy, 64-26.
Most of McDonell's family was in attendance to witness her break the record after a long day of excitement and anticipation. She's now ready to move forward, she said, and return the focus to her team's goals.
"There was a lot of anticipation, I guess you could say. Everyone was like, 'you're only two points away,'" McDonell said. "Last game they were like, 'you just missed it,' but I was like, 'now I can do it on the home court.' I was excited about that. ... But I don't look at things on a personal level, I look at it on a team level. I accomplished something great personally, but as a team I know we can accomplish so much more."
McDonell is known for her work ethic and commitment to all phases of the game, according to coach Dan McDermott, so it was fitting how she scored her record-breaking basket.
"I'm sure there was a lot of nervousness and anxiety, knowing a lot of people were here and the cameras are on her, but it was the best possible way for her to get that basket: working hard on defense, getting a steal, going in strong and finishing with her left hand," McDermott said. "Then going to the line on top of that. It's so typical of the way she is. She's always rising to the occasion when things are toughest and when we need her to do well."
The Lady Hawks (10-0, 5-0 MMAA) got off to a slow start in the first quarter, playing to an 8-8 tie after eight minutes with Mt. Mercy. But from the there O'Hara got in sync and outscored Mt. Mercy 56-18 in the final three quarters.
McDonell finished with only eight points, illustrating the evolution of her game in the parameters of the O'Hara team. When she was a freshman, McDermott said she accounted for 75 percent of the team's scoring, but McDonell's supporting cast has grown in terms of talent the past two seasons.
McDermott said that McDonell's leadership and unselfishness is the exact reason the Lady Hawks have been able to go undefeated this season after winning the school's first state championship last year.
"Her role has changed and the way she fits in with the team has changed all four years, but whatever the situation is she's the type of player that can adapt," he said. "These last two years we've gotten better players around her. That's the strength of this team — the way we share the ball. It hasn't been a problem that her numbers have dropped a little bit because she's about the team."
The Lady Hawks have a pair of bigs that have been dominant this season. Senior Sara DiPasquale and junior Kelsey McCarthy give McDermott a pair of aggressive and talented post players that compete hard on the glass every game. McCarthy scored a game-high 16 points and had 14 rebounds against Mt. Mercy, while DiPasquale scored 10 and grabbed 16 rebounds.
Keyonte Edwards scored 12 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out seven assists and Jailyn Dickson also scored 12 points.
McDonell said after the game that if O'Hara continues to play with focus and the determination it's shown so far this season, it's out of the realm of possibility for the team to go undefeated. That's her focus: winning and being there for the other seven girls lining up beside her. She credits them for her success.
"When you really look at it, it's a team effort that's gotten me to where I am," McDonell said.
Contact sports editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.