Sacred Heart hoops stung by Hornets in FAA finals

Convent of the Sacred Heart's Bridget Scaturro gets the ball past Hamden Hall's Alyssa Devin during the FAA championship game played earlier today. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Convent of the Sacred Heart’s Bridget Scaturro gets the ball past Hamden Hall’s Alyssa Devin during the FAA championship game played earlier today. — Paul Silverfarb photo

If Hamden Hall thought the Fairchester Athletic Association championship game was going to be a repeat of how the regular season fared against Convent of the Sacred Heart, they were mistaken.

In two games this season, the Hornets had little trouble with the Tigers, easily winning both times the two schools hit the hardwood.

However, in the FAA championship game, second-seeded Sacred Heart gave No. 1 seed Hamden Hall everything they had. The Tigers held a nine-point lead early in the second half, but the Hornets were able to rally down the stretch. They took advantage of CSH turnovers and missed free throws and came away with the 47-43 victory.

“This is my fourth year coaching this team and I think it’s the best team I have had,” CSH head coach Sean Green said. “They play together and it’s always great to look at. I am always proud of their effort. It’s tough because they work so hard. I told the girls that obviously I am disappointed, but I am not angry. They gave a great effort tonight. If they came in here and did the same things we did in the last two meetings and expected a different outcome, then I would have been upset. But we pulled it together tonight and played well throughout the game.”

Leading the way for the Tigers was Colleen O’Neill. Playing in her final FAA game, the senior finished with 16 points and five assists.

“I am so proud of this team,” O’Neill said. “We came out here today and gave our best effort. We played a tough game on Saturday and you could tell in the second half of this game that we were a little sluggish. We played them a lot closer than they were expecting. We came out with a fire and knew we had nothing to prove. We really showed that we have a lot of heart.”

In addition to O’Neill’s performance, her sister Claire O’Neill also had a stellar outing, finishing with 18 points and seven rebounds. Emily O’Sullivan was the leader under the basket, finishing with four points, but added 11 rebounds. As a team, Sacred Heart finished with five steals.

For Hamden Hall, Rachel Plotke led the team with 17 points. Rachel Menzie added nine points and Bianca Tomassini finished with seven points.

Scared Heart's Colleen O'Neill looks to find the open Tiger during the FAA championship game against Hamden Hall. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Scared Heart’s Colleen O’Neill looks to find the open Tiger during the FAA championship game against Hamden Hall. — Paul Silverfarb photo

“I reminded the team over halftime of the adjustments we wanted to make to stop [Colleen O’Neill] because she is very good,” Hamden Hall head coach Megan Borelli said. “We needed to settle down on the offensive end because it seemed like we were trying to get back all our points in one possession. We needed to settle down and possession after possession we made our run.”

With 1:21 to play in the first half, Sacred Heart’s Claire O’Neill connected on a long distance three to make the score 30-26. Although the Tigers missed both foul shots on their next possession, Claire O’Neill was able to hit the baseline floater off a nice dish from O’Sullivan to make the halftime score 30-26.

The Tigers added to its lead to start the second half, as Claire O’Neill hit the baseline three pointer. After Tomassini stopped the bleeding for the Hornets with a baseline 3-pointer of her own, Claire O’Neill came right back and hit the three-pointer all alone to make the score 38-29.

“It was a great championship game,” Green said. “Any championship game should be like that. It should go down right to the buzzer. Hamden Hall is a great team and really know their stuff. Momentum shifts and it’s a game of runs. It’s a game of highs and lows. When we hit that adversity, we made two or three turnovers and that helped them catch up. There were plays that led up to it and I told them that we need to fight hard for every play like it’s the last play.”

However, fatigue started to set in and Hamden Hall was able to capitalize. After Madiah Gant went 1-for-2 from the line, a bucket by Tomassini and a three-pointer off a offensive rebound by Plotke cut the deficit to 38-37.

Although Colleen O’Neill stopped the Hornet’s run by hitting a 10-foot jumper off a O’Sullivan rebound, the group of Alyssa Devin, Menze and Plotke put Hamden Hall in front for good.

Despite the Claire O’Neill took a three-pointer from the top of the key to start the game, Hamden Hall built a quick 4-3 lead. Despite another Claire O’Neill long distance shot to give the Tigers the 6-4 lead, the Hornets built a 11-8 lead with 10 minutes to play in the first half.

Yet again, Claire O’Neill wouldn’t be denied, as she tied the game with a baseline three-pointer. Although Menze grabbed the 13-11 lead with the offensive rebound and putback, O’Sullivan grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled. She hit both foul shots with 9:19 to play in the half and again tied the game at 13-13.

With 6:06 left in the half, the Hornets exploded to the 21-15 lead, but Bridget Scaturro started the comeback with baseline jumper. Colleen O’Neill hit both her foul shots and Claire O’Neill hit another three-pointer to give CSH the 22-21 lead with 2:40 to play in the half.

Again Hamden grabbed the lead when Plotke hit the top of the key three-pointer, but yet again Colleen O’Neill was there to answer with a three-pointer of her own to give the Tigers the 25-24 lead.

“It was good for us,” Borelli said. “It’s what we wanted. We wanted to get it up and down the floor and make them run with us. Early on in the season, we were lucky because they didn’t hit those shots, so we were able to take advantage of that. They came out on fire tonight and lucky for us we were able to counter some of those threes.”

For Green, the loss was especially difficult, as Colleen O’Neill, a mainstay on the Tigers for four seasons, played her final FAA game for the Tigers.

“The seniors are the foundation of this team and Colleen is the glue,” Green said. “She’s a fighter and plays hurt. She’s hurting with her knee and her hip, but she still fights. There are great players and players that make their team great and that’s how I feel about her. She’s a great scorer, but she’s an all-around great player.”

“It’s a little sad right now,” Colleen O’Neill said. “However, if you’re going to end your career in the FAA, you might as well end it playing for the FAA championship. I would have liked to win, but you couldn’t have asked for a better effort from this team. I am so proud of the way the season ended.”

One of the big differences that the Tigers had this time around against the Hornets was the play of O’Sullivan, who led the way with nearly a dozen rebounds and didn’t give Hamden Hall any solid looks at the basket.

“She’s our power down low and we always need her to have a great game,” Green said. “I think she did a great job today and she’s going to be a great player for us. If she focuses on getting better and better during the offseason, she will do great things for us. She wants to play in college and I think she’s able to accomplish that.”

 

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