skip navigation

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Team-Wide Celebration Seals Cardinal O'Hara's State Championship

By John Knebels, 03/29/24, 2:15PM EDT


Passing the Torch to the Final Five Seconds to Victory!


(Photos by Mike Nance for PSD)

HERSHEY – Hunched over while standing along the sideline, some of the starters locked arms as anticipation of official completion rose to a crescendo.

On the court for the final 13 seconds, freshman Leah Hudak dribbled the ball 19 times. Five to the left . . . five to the right . . . three to the left . . . six to the right. The final dribble – slammed emphatically to the shiny, polished hardwood – ended up bouncing over the adjacent scorer’s table.

As the horn sounded, the five young players on the court – Hudak, sophomore Michelle Eburuoh, sophomore Natalie Diblasi, sophomore Bella Stellabotte, and freshman Bre Davis – thoroughly relished being swallowed up by the delirious five starters and six subs who couldn't wait to celebrate Cardinal O’Hara's convincing 42-26 victory over Spring-Ford in the PIAA Class 6A championship March 22 at the Giant Center.

“It was pretty surreal,” said Davis, who inbounded the ball to Hudak from mid-court. “I remember actually hoping Coach Chrissie would point at me to go in, and she did. My heart was beating twice as fast, but it was a great moment. 

“Then we got out there and I was like, ‘You got this.’ And then they just ran to us and I was like, ‘Oh my God.’” 

Unaccustomed to post-game interviews, the “Final Five” collectively articulated gratitude for their “13 seconds in the sun.”

Cardinal O'Hara 2024 State Championship Game Highlights (video/ John Knebels)

According to Davis, the veteran Lions have always treated everyone equally regardless of their pedigree. 

“It’s beyond special,” said Davis. “To come in as a freshman on varsity and feel so welcomed is something that doesn’t happen everywhere. I am so glad I got the opportunity to practice and play with our seniors and everyone else . . . enjoying the moments with them.”

Hudak had participated in two earlier tournament wins against Upper Dublin and Hazelton.

Though memorable, they didn’t compare to the final.

“Dribbling out the final seconds was a really special moment, and being on the court at that time is something I will never forget from my freshman season,” said Hudak. “All the games were special, but the last game was a different kind of special because all of our work in practices paid off.”

O’Hara coach Chrissie Doogan’s freedom to supply her deep bench with a moment they’ll never forget emanated from a sensational team effort by O’Hara’s starting unit.

Though not a tutorial on how to execute perfect fundamentals – the Lions committed 18 turnovers, shot only 36 percent, and missed 10 of 12 three-point attempts – O’Hara offset its offensive struggles by applying game-long pristine defense.

Forcing 15 turnovers, snaring nine steals, and outrebounding their opponent by a startling 33-18, the District 12 runner-up Lions (26-4 overall record) held a District 1 runner-up Spring-Ford team (27-7 overall record) that averaged 61 points to a season low 26 on a brutal 8-for-37 shooting performance – lowlighted by a 2-for-17 dud from three-point land.

“My (LaSalle University) coach, Johnny Miller, always said that you can never control the balls going in, but you can always control how hard you play,” said Doogan. “You can always control playing defense. That’s what I try to pass on to these kids.”

Message received. Loud and clear.

Senior point guard Joanie Quinn, spectacular throughout the entire tournament, ended her scholastic career with a clutch line score of 16 points, six rebounds, four steals, and three assists while drawing eight of Spring-Ford’s 19 personal fouls. More than any other Lion, Quinn fully identifies with what the “Final Five” experienced, especially Hudak.

When O’Hara captured the 2021 and 2022 state titles, Quinn dribbled out the final seconds. As a seventh grader at St. Anastasia’s, she did likewise when the school’s CYO squad won a state championship.

Cardinal O'Hara Starters Joanie Quinn, Carly Coleman, Megan Rullo, Molly Rullo and Greta Miller each contributed to State Title. (video/ John Knebels)

“I was so nervous every single time I got in, even though it was with like a minute left and we were already winning,” said Quinn, a La Salle University signee. “This time I just got to relax and take in the moment. It was awesome getting to chill for like a minute. I was excited when time ran out and we got to celebrate by running to the players on the court.

“I was really happy for them. They were all freshmen and sophomores who had never been to Hershey before, so it kinda felt like we were passing on the torch to them as we were running to them. I was talking to some of them before the game and they were all so excited. It was a really special moment.”

Aside from the sentimental merriment, O’Hara’s starters appreciated how the non-starters – including freshman Brigidanne Donohue (three-pointer and one rebound in the state final), senior Sophia Stellabotte, junior Brigid Macgillivray, sophomore Mia Henry, freshman Carly Wakefield, and freshman Penny Miller – made them better players by pushing them in practice.

Without the unselfish contributions from the subs, the aforementioned Quinn, junior Molly Rullo (13 points, seven rebounds), sophomore Megan Rullo (four points, eight rebounds, steal), senior Carly Coleman (two points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals), and senior Greta Miller (four points, five rebounds, steal) might have lacked preparedness, a trademark of Cardinal O’Hara basketball.

Cardinal O'Hara's final 5 (L-R) Michelle Eburuoh, Natalie Diblasi, Bella Stellabotte, Leah Hudak and Bre Davis thoroughly appreciated playing the last 13 seconds of O'Hara's Championship Win. (video/ John Knebels

“Knowing they got a little glimpse of what it’s like to play on that court was nice because they all try to get better every practice and game,” said Coleman. “I was so happy they were able to get a few possessions together.

“Freshman and sophomore year, I was with the group of people who went in at the end. It’s such a fun experience for anyone who gets to step on a court like that. I enjoyed both ways, but being in at the end inspired me to work hard so I could experience the feeling again in a more impactful way.”

A vital cog to O’Hara’s success as a second-team All-Catholic freshman, Molly Rullo also ran from bench to court at the conclusion of O’Hara’s 2022 state crown. 

“They come to practice every day just like the starters do and they put in the same amount of dedication and time,” said Rullo. “I was super excited for them when we built a big enough lead at the end so they could get their opportunity. It was fun to see them get rewarded the way they should because they were part of the reason, behind the scenes, why we were able to come out on top.”

Megan Rullo, Molly’s sister, noticed utter glee radiating from her awe-struck mates.

“It was enjoyable to see the excitement on their faces,” she said. “I was really happy for them. It was a great team experience . . . just a total team win.”

Developing depth, said Doogan, is an essential element to a team’s current and future success.

“We say all the time, good teams have good benches,” said Doogan. “They make our starters better. Good teams have people that can push them day in and day out. Our seniors are just as happy for them as they are for themselves.”

Each of the “Final Five” offered similar summaries of their experience. Feeling grateful for playing highly meaningful seconds, they simultaneously recognized that they contributed to the win and gained invaluable confidence because of physically and mentally challenging practices.

“It was just so exiting to be on the court when the clock hit zero,” said Diblasi. “It made me feel like we accomplished everything we worked for this entire season throughout practice that people don’t always see. 

“It can be hard sometimes. But you have to realize you are helping all your teammates to get better and it will help us go further as a team and accomplish more things, which is all that matters in the end. It is a team effort and even if you aren’t getting the playing time, you are still a part of the team and should be ready to push everyone at practice every day.”

Eburuoh said her late participation “made me feel a part of the win and made me feel excited for my team accomplishing something many would wish to.”

When Spring-Ford closed to within 30-23 early in the fourth quarter, Eburuoh remained confident that O’Hara would reverse momentum. Sure enough, the Lions used 10-for-12 marksmanship from the foul line to engineer a12-3 run and close out the victory.


“I honestly wasn’t worried or nervous,” said Eburuoh. “I knew the win was ours. Our composure is knowing that the work we do in practice translates into the game and gives us confidence on the bench.”

Added Bella Stellabotte: “It was such a special moment. Behind the scenes, at practice, we make them better. And to be part of their win felt very special.”

Despite not being able to measure her progress statistically, Davis would not have changed anything about her freshman season.

“I enjoy working hard in practice and playing defense and making them work a little harder,” said Davis. “They’re D-1 prospects that we’re practicing against. It makes us better in the long run, and it helps us get ready for the next level.”

(Contact John Knebels at or on Twitter @johnknebels.)