Though his Bears had just been denied an opportunity to play for a United Way Tip-off Tournament title, Frewsburg coach Jeff Collver wasn't as disappointed as he would usually be after a loss when he stepped out of the locker room following his post-game chat with the players.
"The kids played their guts out," he said after Frewsburg's slim, 58-51 defeat at the hands of Cardinal O'Hara on Friday evening. "I'm really, really, really proud of them."
He had reason to be.
Frewsburg’s Reyanne Strong finds a lane to the hoop during the Bears’ game against Cardinal O’Hara. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
After all, just minutes before the Bears (3-1) had spent the better part of four quarters giving the defending Catholic Class B state champions all they could handle. And had it not been for a string of missed opportunities and turnovers early in the fourth quarter, the result might well have been very different.
"It was fun," Collver said. "We were right there, but at the end we made a couple of crucial errors and missed a few shots. Things just didn't go our way, that was the difference. A couple of plays here and there and who knows?
After a back-and-forth contest, a supremely experienced (the Lady Hawks have eight players on the roster - four seniors and four juniors) Cardinal O'Hara (3-0) squad made four steals and forced a couple more turnovers over the first 2 minutes of the final quarter to cushion what had been a slight, three-point lead, 47-44, into what would turn out to be an insurmountable 56-48 advantage with only two minutes remaining.
"There was a six- or seven-point swing there that was hard to come back from," Collver said, "and with their size they could play keep away. Time just wasn't in our favor at that point."
Leah McDonell, who is within striking distance of becoming the Monsignor-Martin Association's all-time leading scorer by the end of this season, netted six points during the game-clinching, 11-6 run and finished with a game-high 20.
"It seemed like we kept trying to pull away and they kept fighting back," Cardinal O'Hara coach Dan McDermott said. "But right about (the beginning of the fourth quarter) we got a little more of a cushion. That might well have been where (Frewsburg's) starters started to wear down a little bit."
Along with McDonell, the Lady Hawks made sure to use their sizable height advantage as well. Six-footers Kelsey McCarthy and Sara Dipasquale combined for 21 of the remaining 38 points scored, with most of those buckets being made in the paint down low.
"The only thing that we didn't match up real well with was their size," Collver said, "but even there I thought our kids played great. They challenged (the Lady Hawks' bigs) enough and made it difficult enough to where they missed some close shots."
After taking a few moments to find its footing - Cardinal O'Hara used the opportunity to jump out to a quick, 6-2 lead - Frewsburg bounced back with the help of top-scorer Shawna Raymond.
The senior netted 10 points in the first quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers, to help the Bears build a 16-12 advantage by the end of the first. She then tallied seven of 13 in the second quarter to keep her team within two, 31-29, at the break.
"Shawna willed us through the first half," Collver said.
But a defensive adjustment by the Lady Hawks - they doubled Raymond the rest of the game - managed to hold the senior to just two more points over the next two quarters.
Reyanne Strong, who finished with 17 points, picked up the slack in the third quarter with seven points, but Cardinal O'Hara continued to rely on its post players to maintain the advantage heading into the final period.
NOTES: In addition to her 19 points, Raymond hauled in 10 rebounds and handed out three assists. ... Strong followed with 17 points while McKenzie Cass had eight rebounds and Morgan Knight five steals. ... Frewsburg will take on Dunkirk in the consolation game at 6 p.m., today at McElrath Gymnasium.
CARDINAL O'HARA (58)
McDonell 7 5 20, Dickson 2 0 4, Dipasquale 5 1 11, Edwards 3 3 9, McCarthy 5 0 10, Brown 1 0 2, Shabazz 1 0 2. Totals 24 9 58.
Hair 2 0 4, Raymond 7 2 19, Strong 5 5 17, Berg 3 1 7, Knight 2 0 4. Totals 19 8 51.
3-point goals: McDonell, Raymond 3, Strong.
Cardinal O'Hara12 19 14 13 - 58
Frewsburg16 13 11 11 - 51