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O’Hara Continues to Fly High

After losing two starters, including one who is now playing Division I College Basketball, to graduation, Cardinal O’Hara Girls Basketball Head Coach Nick O’Neil has a problem.

But it’s a problem any coach would love to have.

“We have nine girls on our team that can start,” O’Neil said.

That is not because the quality of players is down at O’Hara. The Hawks return 3 starters from the 2015 season, including senior Anndea Zeigler (15 points, 4 steals and 2 assists per game as a junior), who signed to play basketball at Canisius last week. “I think Canisius got a steal” O’Neil said. “(Zeigler) is very talented and when everything is right she can dominate.”

In 2015, O’Hara had an impressive overall record of 24-3 and 10-0 in Monsignor Martin league play. The season came to an end in the Catholic State Semi-final against Monsignor Scanlan. “We have a lot of unfinished business from last year,” O’Neil said.

The loss gave Zeigler the motivation to toil over the offseason. The senior said “I hate losing, it made me work harder. Coming in and winning it all I got spoiled,” said Zeigler. “Now I have to work hard to get it again.”

For the Hawks, the goal for this season is simple, to win a Class AA Catholic State Championship.

In order to do that, O’Neil has been telling his team in the first two weeks of practice the key is to focus. “We have to focus, be disciplined and work hard,” O’Neil said.

O’Hara will have to focus quickly as they have to play a gauntlet of a first month schedule. The Hawks are playing all of the top five ranked girls basketball teams in New York State. Long Island Lutheran and Christ the King are also nationally ranked.

O’Neil himself called the opening month of the season a ‘gauntlet’, but he thinks his team is ready for it saying “It will be a challenge, but I think they’re up to it. We feel that the toughest games we have in Western New York are our practices,” O’Neil said. “Anyone’s spot can be taken at any moment.”

Also returning for the Hawks is senior Cori Dickson. Dickson averaged eight points and four assists for O’Hara in 2015.

According O’Neil the senior is akin to another coach on the floor who has the pulse of the team saying “Dickson is the heartbeat of our team.”

“We know we can go undefeated. Now we have to go out and do what we are supposed to do,” Dickson said.

O’Hara also welcomes two transfers this season in freshman Tatiana Smith and a junior from Italiy, Giorgia Maniero. Smith transferred from Tapestry Charter after starting on the Varsity squad as a 7th and 8th grader.

“My coach suggested O’Hara to me because they’re a very good team” Maniero said. “I’m excited and a little nervous, because (New York) has some of the toughest competition in the US.”

O’Hara lost two players from last year in Summer Hemphill and Lizzy Edwards. Hemphill is currently starting for the University at Buffalo Women’s Basketball team.

Rounding out the rest of the roster for O’Hara are Shilah Parker, Dabria Scott, Sade McClinton, Shea Warren, Cierra Harrison, Kiara Johnson, Nickelle O’Neil, Angel Parker and Robbyn Sommerville.

Despite his team’s great success on the court, O’Neil is most proud of their hard work in the classroom as the team has an overall GPA of 92.

O’Hara opens the season on Long Island on the first weekend of December as they take on St. Anthony’s on Dec. 3 and Long Island Lutheran on Dec. 4.

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