This time of year the hardest thing to find isn't some Christmas present hidden away in an obscure corner of the house, it's a basketball coach who's completely happy with how his team is performing.
Now coaches are, by nature, a restless bunch, but in mid December, when the high school basketball season is just nicely underway, they are, as a rule, no matter a win or loss, more often than not still tweaking and still very much unsatisfied.
Dan McDermott might be the lone exception to that rule in all of Western New York.
Jamestown’s Chrisanna Green puts up a shot during the championship game of the United Way Tip-Off Tournament at McElrath Gymnasium on Saturday night. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
Yes, McDermott, whose Cardinal O'Hara Lady Hawks finished off Jamestown on Saturday evening, 63-48, to capture the 14th annual United Way Tip-off Tournament at McElrath Gymnasium, is thrilled with the way his exceedingly experienced squad has been playing through its first four games (all wins) this season.
"The kids are just really getting it as far as sharing the ball and everything else that needs to be," he said. "These kids have been playing together now for a couple three years and it's really starting to show. The team is just gelling. For this early in the season, I couldn't be much happier with the way they're playing and the way things have gone."
It's the team-wide balance that has McDermott most excited.
"As of right now," he continued, "we've got a real nice situation where all eight players are playing well together, and hopefully we can keep this going because it's really an enjoyable situation for us."
Seven of eight Lady Hawks on the roster tallied at least four points, led by tournament Most Valuable Player Leah McDonell's 14, and five of those seven had at least seven points, which made life especially difficult for the hosts.
"That balance is tough," Jamestown coach Mark Nugent said. "That was a good team. That was a real good team. They have a lot of good athletes, and their two big girls really hurt us."
Nugent is referring to a pair of 6-footers, Sara Dipasquale, who scored nine points and was named to the All-Tournament team, and Jailyn Dickson, who had four points and used her solid frame at the defensive end to make offensive rebounds for the Red Raiders hard to come by.
And on a night when Jamestown's 3-point shot refused to fall (the team connected on just 7 of 28 total) they needed those offensive boards.
"We've got to make our 3s," Nugent said. "We weren't making them and they got a lot of rebounds. We've got to be able to rebound better than that, but we just couldn't match their size. We can match their height, but not their size. They were strong and they pushed us around."
Jamestown, which had raced out to a 14-0 lead a night before, suffered a 12-4 run over the first five minutes of play as a different Cardinal O'Hara player scored on each of its first eight baskets. The Red Raiders weathered another 10-4 run to start the second before it finally answered.
Annie Campion, who had accounted for seven of the Red Raiders' 13 points in the first period, hit a trey from the left wing, Lucy Pannes connected on a pair of free throws, Rosa Velazquez dropped in another 3 and Karisha Tapia-Carmona scored on a fast break to cut what had been a 12-point deficit to just three, 30-27, with 2 remaining in the half.
Jamestown would pull to within one, 31-30, a few moments later following a Campion steal and a Tapia-Carmona layup, but that would be as close as it could get as Cardinal O'Hara responded with a 6-0 rally to end the half.
Campion would finish with a team-high 12 points.
"(Annie) played great," Nugent said. "That's the Annie we expect - a lot of hustle, great shooting - we count on her."
The Red Raiders would go scoreless over the first three minutes of the third quarter and managed just seven total over that eight-minute span, and then a quick 9-0 spurt in the fourth (thanks to a pair of triples from the Lady Hawks' Kayla Brown) made the score 60-46 and all but clinched the game.
NOTES: Along with Campion, sophomore all-tournament choice Chrisanna Green worked hard under the hoop as she hauled in 17 rebounds to go along with her eight points. ... Tapia-Carmona, also named to the all-tournament team, had eight rebounds and scored nine points. ... Jamestown (2-1) is back in action for its season-opening Erie County Interscholastic Conference Division 1 game at Clarence on Monday.
CARDINAL O'HARA (63)
Dipasquale 4 1 9, Shabazz 3 1 7, Brown 5 2 14, McDonell 3 5 12, Dickson 2 0 4, McCarthy 4 2 10, Edwards 3 1 7. Totals 24 12 63.
Nugent 1 0 2, Tapia-Carmona 4 0 9, Campion 5 0 12, Velazquez 3 0 7, Green 3 0 7, Pannes 0 2 2, Coleman 1 1 3, Butts 1 0 3, Davis 1 0 2. Totals 20 3 48.
3-point goals: Brown 2, McDonell, Tapia-Carmona, Campion 2, Velazquez, Butts.
Cardinal O'Hara18 19 11 15 - 63
Jamestown13 17 7 11 - 48