Archbishop Hoban senior Alessandra Dickos started Wednesday night with a microphone in hand, singing the national anthem.
Moments later, she had a basketball in hand and scored the first basket of the game against Walsh Jesuit. The host Knights raced out to an early lead, but the Warriors rebounded and nearly ruined a Senior Night.
Hoban regrouped and overcame a five-point halftime deficit to defeat Walsh 56-39. The result gives both teams a share of the North Coast League Blue Division championship.
“It is always fun to start the game off with the national anthem to get everybody loosened up,” said Dickos, who led the Knights (17-5, 9-1) with 22 points, eight rebounds, three steals and two assists.
“I had a tough first half, rushing a couple of things. In the end, honestly, my teammates just told me to slow down and let the game come to you.”
The Warriors (15-7, 9-1) led 11-6 after the first quarter and 21-16 at halftime.
Hoban outscored Walsh 40-18 in the second half, getting major contributions from senior starters Dickos, Meghan Donohue, Emma Horning, Allie Griffith and Natalie Bender.
“We had a lot of emotion coming into this game because we have five incredible seniors,” Hoban coach Scott Callaghan said. “I thought we were nervous to start the game. We forced some things offensively. We just talked about at halftime, executing and being strong offensively. And then defensively, we talked about having a little bit more pride and winning your war, and that is your one-on-one matchup.”
Dickos scored 15 points in the second half and Donohue scored 11 of her 19 points in the half. Donohue also had 14 rebounds and two assists.
“Both of those kids allow the coaching staff to coach them,” Callaghan said. “That is so unique in high school sports today. I really, really challenged Sandra at halftime. She is a very good offensive player. What I talked to her about was letting the game come to her, and all the credit goes to her. When she gets rolling, and we play inside-out, we are a good offensive team.
“Meghan is the anchor of our team, and she has been the whole year. She is our hardest worker and she is our most dedicated kid. I just told her as we were walking up from our locker room to the court at halftime, I said ‘You are not going to let us lose. You have to go win the game.’ ”
Horning added seven points and seven rebounds. Griffith scored five points and Bender had one point and four assists.
“Every single day we came to practice, starting seven months ago back in June and July playing summer basketball, this is what we were playing for, a league championship,” Griffith said. “It all came down to mental toughness.”
Walsh got 10 points each from sophomore Lilli Piper and seniors Sophia Simone and Jessa Gilberto.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a lot, got in a little foul trouble, stopped attacking and things just started unraveling a lit bit and we didn’t keep it together,” Walsh coach Pete Zaccari said. “We will put this behind us. We have a team full of high-character girls.”
Both teams have high expectations for the postseason.
“We executed better in the second half,” Donohue said. “This win, obviously, means a lot to us. Winning our league is important. We played really well together and we wanted this really bad.”