Girls Basketball: Looking ahead to next season at Cardinal O’Hara

They came close.

O’Hara nearly became the third Delco girls team in as many seasons to play for a PIAA title.

Alas, the Lions came up short. And that’s extremely upsetting/disappointing if you’re a member of the Lions, a coach, or a fan … because this was the team. The Lions were stacked to make a deep run in the postseason, and they certainly did just that, but ultimately failed to achieve the ultimate goal.

Spring-Ford, an aggressive and very physical defensive team, had a sound game plan to combat the Lions’ size, speed and athleticism. Whereas the other teams in states had trouble containing the Lions’

O'Hara's Mackenzie Rule, front, and Shanice Johnson leave big shoes to fill.

O’Hara’s Mackenzie Rule, front, and Shanice Johnson leave big shoes to fill.

low-post game and will to drive to the basket, the Rams had just enough answers.

A 24-6 season concludes, and O’Hara will move on, retool and compete for a state title come next year. However, it’s a little hard to believe they’ll be as potent and well-balanced as they were this season.

Four starters will graduate: Shanice Johnson, Mackenzie Rule, Lisa Mintzer and Libby Lannon.

Rule was a terrific point guard and floor general. Her on-the-ball defense was second to none. Rule is the type of player who doesn’t give you a whole lot on the offensive end, but the total package is hard to replace.

Mintzer went back and forth in the starting lineup. She got off to a slow start and didn’t find her comfort zone until the postseason, and thrived in the biggest games of the year. I think it’s safe to say the Lions are going to miss Mintzer’s 6-4 frame and tremendous shot-blocking ability. Those players don’t grow on trees.

Lannon was a steady contributor and a staple in the starting lineup. She is going to Ursinus to continue her playing career.

Finally, there’s Johnson. Though at times maddening to watch, Johnson is a special talent. She didn’t shoot for high percentage, but the 5-11 star  didn’t have to. She could score 15 points by accident. For three seasons, she thrived as the Lions’ go-to player.

What’s Next?

The player to watch will be Mia Farmer. It’s now her team. The junior guard thrived in adverse situations, and is a silky-smooth talent. She’s aggressive to the hoop and can pull up and shoot and does just about everything. Farmer has all-state ability, without question. She is already fielding Division I offers.

Farmer is a combo guard, so I expect Steph Garafolo to handle the pont-guard duties. The diminutive junior was one of the first players off the bench this season. While she doesn’t have size to blossom into a D-1 prospect, she has what it takes to run the point on a full-time basis. She’s a very nice player.

It’s a shame what happened to junior Rachel Guy, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury in the second round of states. Guy is a versatile player and will be a perfect complement to Farmer next year. The hope is  Guy will return from her injury by early January. The Lions typically only play two or three games in December, anyway, so she shouldn’t miss too many games. But as we’ve seen with knee injuries, it takes a while to regain your strength out on the floor, even after you are cleared by doctors. Archbishop Carroll’s Olivia DeRogatis had a bad knee injury, as well, and never quite found her footing when she returned in February.

Christina Manning has tremendous upside. She was a key reserve for O’Hara the last two seasons, often coming off the bench to hit a 3-pointer or two. She can become a great shooting guard.

Where will the size come from? It’s conceivable the Lions won’t have a true power forward, but junior Katie Feehery has upside and, with a productive summer, could develop into a legitimate low-post player.

Sam Amicone, Kim Whelan and Kristen Stam also figure to be important pieces.

Come next season, there might be some growing pains, but the Lions should be a Catholic League power. Whether they can repeat the success they enjoyed this season might be easier said than done, and you have to wonder if a team like Bonner-Prendergast, which made great strides in 2012-13, has caught up to them.

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