CHELTENHAM — Just because Mount St. Joseph coach John Miller essentially reduced his game plan to one item Friday against Cardinal O'Hara, it hardly meant it was without complications.
“We had Libby Tacka on Aminah Farmer,” Miller said.
“Any time she had the ball, we exaggerated our help-side defense.”
“Whenever she would drive over a pick, whether high post or out in the wing, pick and roll, we doubled.”
And all of that squeezed into 32 minutes helped to enable the Magic to eliminate the Lions, 68-32, from the opening round of the PIAA Class AAAA girls basketball playoffs at Cheltenham High.
“Literally every time I touched the ball, they had like three people there,” said Farmer, who did battle through the defense to lead O'Hara with nine points. “And when other people touched the ball, they helped a lot.
“They came to play. They were hitting all of their shots. They came to play. And they wanted it more than us.”
Desire may or may not have been the difference. As for the Lions' size disadvantage, that was undeniable. Through three quarters, O'Hara would collect a total of nine rebounds, six alone from Mary Sheehan. So dominated, then, on the boards, the Lions were tormented inside and out by 5-11 Carly Monzo, who scored 23 points, and 6-0 Alex Louin, who added 19. Tacka, a sophomore, supplemented her strong defense with 11 points.
The Lions (16-9) kept within reasonable distance early, trailing by only 14-9 after one quarter. But by the time Monzo drilled a three-pointer late in the third, the Magic (27-3) had a 42-22 lead and everything but a spot in Round 2.
“They are really, really good,” O'Hara coach Linus McGinty said. “Monzo killed us early. And the big kid (Louin) is real, real good and could be the best player in the state. They have a legitimate shot to win the whole thing. John does a great job. And we had trouble scoring inside all year. They switched every screen and just played the perimeter.
“That's been happening more and more to us. Every time Aminah had the ball, they got everybody off of everybody else and got in the lane and wouldn't let her drive. She has had a great year. It's a shame it had to end like that. But it was a great year. She has carried us a lot of times.”
Such was the situation after the Mount added a 26-10 fourth-quarter flourish. The Lions were forced to — and were comfortable with — savoring what had been a satisfying state-tournament season.
“We turned a lot of faces around,” Farmer said. “A lot of people took us for granted and doubted us. They didn't think we'd make it this far. So it was good.”
It was good for O'Hara.
It was almost perfect for Mount St. Joseph.
“We can't play much better than that,” Miller said. “We just can't. We all know how good O'Hara is. They just caught us on one of those nights when a basketball team can't do anything wrong.”