**Note: This article originally published on PaPrepLive.com**
RADNOR >> Both the Cardinal O’Hara and Abington girls’ basketball teams have enjoyed recent success, as each program reached the quarterfinals of the PIAA AAAA tournament last season. So it was hardly a surprise when O’Hara went into the fourth quarter with a slim 43-41 lead.
That’s when the Lions’ Maura Hendrixson found her range. Finally.
“Hannah (Nihill) does a really good job driving and kicking,” Hendrixson said. “So whenever she would drive I would move up a little and I was just there open.”
A pair of Hendrixson threes and an extra level of defensive intensity pushed Cardinal O’Hara to win the fourth quarter and advance to the second round of states with a 55-46 victory.
The Lions’ guard, who was forced into a forward’s role on defense, scored nine of her 13 points in the second half, including six of the O’Hara 12 in a decisive fourth quarter.
“Any time she shoots air balls in the first half she makes big threes. This has happened like five times.” O’Hara head coach Linus McGinty said. “We told her to shoot it in the first half this time.”
After an 0-3 performance from the field in the first half both of Hendrixson’s fourth-quarter threes came with the game tied.
“She’s never afraid to shoot big shots, but she’s very unselfish.” McGinty said. “She doesn’t force stuff.”
“I try to keep shooting, not get down on myself,” Hendrixson added about her first-half woes. “I just don’t think about it after that.”
O’Hara was balanced on offense all night, getting 13 points from Hendrixson, Mary Sheehan, and Kenzie Gardler. Nihill added 11 for the Lions as well.
“We didn’t want our season to end tonight,” Hendrixson said. “That was a lot of our motivation. Then we all work really well together. “
Lizzie O’Leary paced Abington, and all scorers in the game, with 17 points. The junior center, committed to Delaware, had a lot of her success on the inside thanks to Abington’s extensive height advantage.
“They’re the worst team for us to play with all their size,” McGinty said “We played match-up to start the third quarter and they get a layup; I said, ‘good coaching.’”
O’Hara did limit the Ghosts to just 17 points in the second half however, after surrendering 29 in the first 16 minutes.
“It was a tale of two styles,” Abington head coach Dan Marsh said. “We struggled a little bit, I think, in the fourth quarter and the end of the third quarter getting into what we wanted to do…I don’t think we got bad looks…they made shots and we didn’t.”
The Ghosts also committed six turnovers in the final period, while scoring just five points.
Abington did execute well in the first half, as they went into the locker room with a 29-25 advantage behind a 19-point second quarter.
“This is what we’ve told them all year. You want to walk off the court on your own terms,” Marsh said. “I’m not upset. Our kids walked off on their own terms. They played their asses off…I have nothing negative to say to my kids. I’m very proud of them.”
O’Leary had 10 points in the first 16 minutes, including a three in the second quarter. Britney James scored five of her 10 points in the first half as well.
A gap in the schedule could be the culprit for a slow start by O’Hara, as they play in District 12 compared to the more-crowded District 1 Abington plays in, but the Lions’ leadership really showed in the second half. This rang especially true in the fourth, when O’Hara played keep-away for 1:28 in the final two minutes with a five point lead.
“(Coach) said the first half, just forget about it, and the second half come out with a lot of energy,” Hendrixson said. “Focus more on defense, then offense will just come to us.”