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  • Writer's picturetgardner1167

O’Hara Stuns East in a Thriller

You see comeback victories in the game of basketball nearly every day, but rarely do you see what Cardinal O’Hara managed to pull off. The Hawks came all the way back against the East Panthers to win 74-73 in the MLK Classic at City Honors School after trailing by nine points with 1:28 to go. A put back off a missed shot by Justin Hemphill with 2 seconds to go was the game winner that completed the Hawks’ miraculous comeback.

The contest started off with sloppy play from both sides, as the two squads fast paced play led to turnovers. Later on in the first is when the Panthers got things going. A 10-0 run finally put some separation between the two sides, but a Jermaine Haynes buzzer beating three helped keep the Hawks close as the first ended in a 21-15 East lead.

The Panthers picked up where they left off in the first, scoring the first six points of the second quarter and extending their lead to 12, their largest lead of the contest. It was Willard Anderson doing the damage for East, as his strong drives to the basket seemed unstoppable. Anderson put up a strong 19 points in the first half, including 14 in the second alone. The teams traded baskets in the final minutes and the Panthers took a 41-32 lead into the break.

Shutting down Anderson was a key for the Hawks if they were to turn things around, and they knew that.

“We had to shut down Willard Anderson in the second half, and we were able to do that,” said  Hemphill following the victory.

O’Hara’s game plan of stopping Anderson did the trick in the second half, as he only scored nine to his nineteen in the first half.

A Jermaine Haynes three pointer five seconds into the second half seemed to set the tone for the third quarter, as the Hawks were firing on all cylinders. East played an extremely sloppy third, with fouls and turnovers a plenty. Their nine point halftime advantage vanished as O’Hara stormed back to take a four point lead. Despite East scoring only a mere 10 points in the quarter, the Panthers’ play on the glass kept them close, as the third ended in a slim 52-51 lead for the Hawks.

The thrilling final eight minutes got off to a fast start as the teams traded baskets. With a few minutes to play, a momentum booster for the Panthers came at the hand of a Jahrod Maryon four point play to put them up 61-57. East continued their strong play and hit big time shots, including an Anderson three that put them up 7 with two minutes to play, and they soon found themselves with a nine point lead. Then the tides turned, and Justin Hemphill took over.

A Hemphill three point play cut the Panther lead to 73-67. Rene Velazquez scores two of his 16 total points for the Hawks to cut it to four. An East turnover leads to another Justin Hemphill three point play and all of a sudden it’s a one point game with 30 seconds to play. The Hawks then fouled Willard Anderson and put him at the line for two shots, but he misses them both. With 18 seconds to play, O’Hara gets two good looks, but miss on each. With only two seconds to play, Hemphill collects the rebound off the second miss as time dwindled and laid it in to give the Hawks a shocking come from behind victory.

O’Hara head coach Tony Pulvirenti was thrilled with the last second win.

“We played hard for 32 minutes, it’s probably the biggest win in program history. Hopefully this a momentum builder for our big league games next week,” said Pulvirenti. “I expected to pull away sooner, but we kept giving up offensive rebounds. They wouldn’t score on the initial shot, but the put back. They made a few mistakes down the stretch and missed a couple free throws, and that left us in the game.”

The Hawks were led by Hemphill and Haynes, scoring 23 points each, as Hemphill added 13 rebounds to give him a double double. Willard Anderson scored a game high 28 points for the Panthers.

The huge win puts O’Hara at 8-5 on the year and drops East to 7-4.

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