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Cardinal O’Hara McDonnell breaks school scoring mark

In November of 2009, Cardinal O’Hara senior Leah McDonell didn’t know what to expect going out for the school’s varsity girls basketball team. She was just a freshman looking to get noticed by the coaching staff.

She must have done something to impress head coach Dan McDermott, because she became a starter for the Lady Hawks by the first game of her freshman year. Four years later, that 14-year-old looking to just make any impression possible on her coaches has grown up and become entrenched in the Cardinal O’Hara record book.

With eight points in her team’s 64-26 victory over Mount Mercy on Jan. 14, McDonell became the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,362 points, passing the 1,355 of Melissa Kanalley, set back in 2006. She’s now fifth all-time on the Monsignor Martin scoring list.

“It’s cool knowing that there is going to be a part of me still at O’Hara even when I’m gone,” said McDonell.

McDonell entered Monday’s game needing just one point to tie the record, two to pass. She admitted that while she tried not to think about the feat, it was hard not to let it creep into her head.

“A lot of my family was here, and they had all the signs; my friends wouldn’t let me into the cafeteria because they were making the signs for me,” she said. “I was like ‘OK, I’m a little nervous.’”

It wasn’t until right before tip-off that the magnitude of what was about to happen actually hit McDonell.

After the tip, it took her all of a minute and forty-five seconds to reach the mark. After missing a previous shot attempt, McDonell stole the ball at half court and dribbled in for the easy layup for the game’s opening points.

After the shot, play stopped completely as McDonell was given a standing ovation and she jumped into the arms of teammate Sara Dipasquale with the celebration beginning.

Play didn’t resume for about five minutes after she made the basket. It was as if time stood still for McDonnell’s special moment.

“I feel very blessed to have been her coach for these past four years,” McDermott said. “That’s probably the best compliment I can give her. It’s been such a pleasure, such an honor.”

As a freshman, McDonell just wanted to get better as a player and help her team win. Then in her sophomore year, she realized the potential to become much more than a role player for her team. Entering her final year, McDonell wanted to leave her mark.

“I came into my senior year and they were like ‘Oh, you’re only a 100 points or something like that from beating the record,’” she said. “I was like, ‘okay, I think that’s do-able.’”

She did have some second thoughts about if she could do it, at times. She expected the worst and hoped for the best.

“I thought to myself, ‘Am I going to be able to do it? Am I going to hurt something? Break something? There were all the possibilities going through my head,” said McDonell.

McDermott feels that there is no one more deserving to hold the scoring record.

“She’s worked and worked and worked herself into being such a great basketball player,” he said. “She never stops. She’s always working, always trying to get better, always trying to be in better shape; to be stronger. That’s just the way she is. Everything that she’s accomplished, she’s earned.”
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