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Girls: Cardinal O’Hara hoping third trip to state final pays off

Maggie Doogan

Maggie Doogan scores a basket in the first half of Cardinal O’Hara’s 40-28 victory over Springfield in the PIAA Class 5A semifinals Tuesday. Doogan, a junior forward, watched from the Giant Center seats when O’Hara played for a state title back in 2016. Pete Bannan – MediaNews Group

By Matt Smith

Cardinal O’Hara is hoping the third time is the charm.

The Lions have appeared in two PIAA championship games. Each time, they have come home empty-handed.

In 2009, Daily Times Player of the Year Stephanie Holzer re-aggravated an ankle injury as the Lions lost to Mount Lebanon, 57-48, at Penn State University’s Bryce Jordan Center. Seven years later, behind two-time Player of the Year Hannah Nihill and All-Delcos Mary Sheehan, Kenzie Gardler and Maura Hendrixson, O’Hara suffered a 57-34 defeat to Cumberland Valley, which celebrated its third straight PIAA title at the expense of the Lions. In both prior final appearances, O’Hara was competing in Class AAAA, the PIAA’s highest enrollment classifications until 2017.

Delaware County’s top girls basketball program has a third chance to make history Saturday. The Lions will meet reigning Class 5A champion Chartiers Valley (15-3) at 5 p.m. at the Giant Center in Hershey.

O’Hara (14-4) is the District 12 champion and Philadelphia Catholic League runner-up. The Lions were victorious over previously undefeated Springfield, 40-28, in an all-Delco semifinal contest Tuesday. Three of O’Hara’s four losses have come by three points or fewer. The Lions lost two of three against Catholic League champion Archbishop Wood, which is playing for the Class 4A title Saturday at noon.

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Girls: Springfield battles, but can’t overcome Cardinal O’Hara in PIAA semifinal

O'Hara vs. Springfield

Cardinal O’Hara’s Siobhan Boylan, right, hits a basket over the defense of Springfield’s Lexi Aaron in the first half of the PIAA Class 5A semifinals Tuesday night. Boylan had a team-high 12 points as O’Hara advanced to the state final, 40-28. Pete Bannan – MediaNews Group


By Matt Smith

Cardinal O’Hara players threw Hershey’s Kisses to their fans in the Springfield gymnasium after clinching a berth to the PIAA Class 5A championship game Saturday. The Lions were in full celebration mode following a 40-28 victory.

O’Hara will playing reigning Class 5A champion Chartiers Valley at the GIANT Center.

For the District 12 champion Lions, who are the No. 1 team in Delaware County and arguably one of the top five teams in eastern Pennsylvania regardless of PIAA classification, Tuesday’s Class 5A semifinal against the District 1 and Central League champion was supposed to go their way. Anyone who follows high school basketball in Delco would’ve told you that Catholic League teams are just bigger, stronger, faster and better.

Springfield (21-1) didn’t buy into the talk.

The Lions emerged victorious, but they had to fight every second to earn it.

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Girls: Friendship runs deep between uncommon Comets opponents

O'Hara vs Springfield

Cardinal O’Hara’s Maggie Doogan dives ahead of Springfield’s Alexa Abbonizio, right, in the second half of a PIAA Tournament semifinal Tuesday evening. O’Hara was victorious and moves on the state final in Hershey Saturday night. PETE BANNAN – MEDIANEWS GROUP

By Terry Toohey

A month from now, when the AAU season starts, Springfield High’s Alexa Abbonizio and Cardinal O’Hara’s Amaris Baker, Siobhan Boylan and Maggie Doogan will be wearing the same uniform.

They’re all teammates on the Comets Under Armour team that will kick off its season at the Finley Sports Center in Hoover, Ala. They’ve already been practicing together for nearly a month.

On Tuesday night, though, they were opponents, trying to bring the other’s season to a close as the Cougars and Lions battled at Springfield for a berth in Saturday’s PIAA Class 5A championship game.

“It was really weird playing against them,” Boylan said. “Alexa Abbonizio is my teammate this year and Rachel Conran was my teammate sophomore year, so I’m used to playing with them, not against them. So it was strange going against them.”

O’Hara won that fight, 40-28, to end Springfield’s undefeated season and earn the Lions a third trip to the state final Saturday night. They will take on defending state champion Chartiers Valley, a 50-33 winner over District 3 champ Spring Grove.

“I know all of us have been waiting to get there since we came here,” Boylan said. “We want to be the first team to win a state championship for O’Hara.”

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Lower Merion loses cliffhanger to undefeated Wood in PIAA 6A state semifinal

By Bruce Adams

Just four days after capturing its first District 1 title since the days of Kobe Bryant, Lower Merion came within an eyelash of defeating Archbishop Wood, the ninth-ranked boys’ basketball team in the United States, in the PIAA 6A state semifinals Tuesday evening.

The Aces gave Archbishop Wood (19-0) an admirable battle at the Kobe Bryant Gymnasium, jumping out to an early 15-4 lead, and leading for much of the game. But in the end, the Vikings squeezed out a razor-thin 72-68 win.

Lower Merion head coach Gregg Downer said, “We try to say we don’t play for close losses, but I think it was a heck of a high school game, the [Pennsylvania] Eastern final that was really a two-point game, lots of back-and-forth. We played with a lot of grit and a lot of determination. I’m not into close losses but I’m very proud of these kids. There’s a lot of emotion in the air right now.”

Downer and the other Lower Merion coaches spoke to the team at length after the game.

“We [coaches] told the players that we were very proud of them; we didn’t think we would get much of a season in the pandemic, but we played 18 games and won the school’s first district title in 25 years,” said Downer. “We were a couple of minutes away from going to Hershey. It’s an emotional time right now with the end of the season, but this was a really fun group to coach. I think these players really believed in themselves; they really thought they could do it.”

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Lemon-Warren, Tomasco just too much as Ryan eliminates Chester

Ryan vs. Chester

Chester’s Karell Watkins, center, has his shot blocked by Archbishop Ryan’s Christian Tomasco, left, among the myriad company in the lane. Watkins and Chester never got going in an 84-63 setback in the PIAA Class 5A semifinal. Pete Bannan – MediaNews Group

By Matt Smith

Chester senior Fareed Burton Jr. can admit when he’s been bested on the basketball court.

There’s no shame in giving props to the other guys.

For the Clippers, they faced a harsh reality Monday night. The District 1 champions lost in the PIAA Class 5A quarterfinals, falling hard to District 12 champ Archbishop Ryan, 84-63. The lopsided defeat snapped Chester’s 21-game winning streak at the Clip Joint.

And so ended another season without a state title for one of the most storied boys basketball programs in Pennsylvania. Chester fell a win shy of making their first PIAA final since 2013.

“Tonight, they were the better team. They played better than us. It’s simple as that,” said Burton Jr., who did his job trying to keep the Clippers afloat, producing a team-high 27 points.

“Congratulations to them because they’re a really good team.”

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Togetherness makes end more painful for Chester

Ryan vs. Chester

Chester seniors Karell Watkins, left, and Isaiah Freeman walk off court during a fourth-quarter timeout Monday. They’d walk off the court for the final time as Clippers in an 84-63 loss to Archbishop Ryan in the PIAA Class 5A semifinals. Pete Bannan – MediaNews Group

By Bob Grotz

The group text messaging leading up to the game was full of optimism, the Chester High Clippers just one victory from playing for a state title for the first time since the 2013 season.

Coach Keith Taylor encourages his players to earn their status in the storied tradition of Chester basketball through sacrifice, solidarity, teamwork and purpose. In the gym and out of it, senior guard Jameel Burton added Monday night. That is how it works.

“It was all about family,” Jameel Burton said. “He was really close to us. Everybody was close. Even off the court we were close, and I appreciate that a lot. I enjoyed that. Ninety percent of the team was in the group chat together. We see each other almost every day outside school, that’s how close we were. Some teams only see each other on the court. That’s not the case with us. Even after this season we’re going to be together almost every day.”

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Taylor hoping for a little less stress as Clippers face Ryan

 
 

By Bob Grotz

Drained from one of the biggest tests of this coronavirus-abbreviated basketball season, Keith Taylor took a big gulp of air.

Chester High needed five quarters, including the overtime to oust Crestwood, 58-52, in the quarterfinal round of the PIAA Class 5A playoffs Friday at Ninth and Barclay.

The Clippers’ coach poured every last drop of himself into the state quarterfinal victory over the District 2 champion, a game in which his team rallied from an almost insurmountable six-point deficit with less than 30 seconds remaining in regulation to force the extra session.

Great game?

“Definitely, to watch,” Taylor said. “But coaching that, man, that’s definitely heart attack material. They gave us everything they had.”

The only team standing between the Clippers (14-1) and the school’s 19th trip to a state final is District 12 rep Archbishop Ryan, a 68-50 winner over Bangor in the other quarterfinal game in the East.

The Raiders (10-5) have momentum after losses earlier this season to Archbishop Carroll (70-58), Roman Catholic (70-58), and twice versus Archbishop Wood (71-66, 77-47).

Taylor didn’t need the scouting report in hand to state the obvious about the state semifinal showdown Monday night at the Clip Joint (7 p.m.).

Girls: For Springfield, shots don’t fall … but Comets do

Springfield co-captains Rachel Conran, left, and Alexa Abbonizio sparked the Cougars to a 29-24 win over Abington Heights Saturday and a berth in the PIAA Class 5A state semifinals against neighborhood rival Cardinal O’Hara. MEDIANEWS GROUP FILE PHOTO

By Bob Grotz

There’s not much you can say about Springfield’s bruising 29-24 victory over Abington Heights in the PIAA Class 5A state quarterfinals Saturday beyond the obvious: it’s going to leave some marks.

The Cougars couldn’t make shots, and neither could the Comets.

Cougars coach Ky McNichol was running out of things to tell her girls during the timeouts.

“We just told them to keep shooting shots, they’re eventually going to fall,” McNichol said. “They never did. But they just kept grinding and grinding and playing defense and then knocking down foul shots when they needed to. And getting defensive stops when they needed to.”

There were no field goals for either team – repeat, zero … as in, nada – in the all-important final frame. Subsequently, a trip to the state semifinals opposite Cardinal O’Hara was earned via an eight-minute foul-shooting effort for the Cougars.

Beyond their defense, that’s what the Cougars do best, and they sank eight of 12 in the frame, none bigger than two swishes by co-captain Alexa Abbonizio to break a tie and give the Cougars the lead for good.

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Girls: Scott helps O’Hara take momentous state step

MEDIANEWS GROUP FILE PHOTO

By Matt Smith

Cardinal O’Hara junior Sydni Scott and Bethlehem Catholic junior Kourtney Wilson go way back.

Both outstanding two-way guards for their respective teams, Scott and Wilson forged their friendship years ago in AAU basketball for the Philadelphia Belles.

After Scott helped O’Hara to a 64-55 victory Saturday in the PIAA Class 5A quarterfinal round, members of Wilson’s family met with her to offer their congratulations and say hello. The Wilson family mentioned how they consider Scott a member of their own.

Scott knew she couldn’t let her relationship with Wilson cloud her primary focus Saturday. She had a job to do.

“I was motivated to play against her, but even my coaches said, don’t make it a Kourtney and Sydni game,” said Scott, who produced 10 of her 14 points in the second half. The All-Delco player added four assists and two steals.

Wilson carried the Golden Hawks with a game-high 25 points.

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