Jason Guarente (@JasonGuarente)
Count the seconds between the moment Cardinal O’Hara grabs a rebound and when the ball is put in Sydni Scott’s hands. Maybe you’ll get to one. You’ll never get to two.
Scott can speed dribble into a quick basket. She can slowly carry it across halfcourt to run a set. Either way, every possession starts in the same place. With No. 5.
“She’s our little engine,” O’Hara coach Chrissie Doogan said. “We go as she goes.”
Scott has steered O’Hara toward another PIAA championship title game. The Lions knocked off Mechanicsburg 50-18 in the Class 5A semifinals at Gov. Mifflin Intermediate School Saturday.
Sydni Scott (above) has been key to O'Hara's success in the team's quest for a state title repeat. (Photo: Jason Guarente/CoBL)
One more win and O’Hara repeats. The Lions will face District 7 runner-up Chartiers Valley in the championship game at Giant Center in Hershey on Friday at 5 p.m.
Everything about Scott exudes confidence. The way she walks. The way she talks. The way she guards an opponent face-to-face. The way she throws a pass.
If it’s time to switch on defense, Scott yells it louder than anyone else. If her coach calls out a change, Scott makes sure everyone hears it. No one in O’Hara’s lineup can be sluggish with Scott always bouncing nearby.
“We get our energy off of each other,” she said. “I feel like once I bring the energy, somebody else brings it. Then the bench brings it. Everybody feeds off each other.”
Scott finished with seven points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals against Mechanicsburg. The numbers, however wide-ranging, were only a small part of her contribution. So much of it is intangibles. Things you can see but not necessarily quantify.
The senior dribbled five consecutive times between her legs during warmups and kicked a pass to the wing for an open jumper. She emphatically clapped her hands when the shot swished home.
When Maggie Doogan fired up a 3-pointer, Scott said, “That’s you” and put three fingers in the air. When Molly Rullo attempted a free throw, Scott said, “Good job” before the ball even went through the hoop.
Scott is a contradiction. Somehow happy-go-lucky and extremely intense at the same time.
“Sydni is a blast to play with,” Maggie Doogan, Chrissie's daughter, said. “Off the court she’s full of energy. She’s always making everybody smile. Then on the court she’s straight-faced. She’s sharing the ball. She’s making open shots. She’s one of a kind.”
Doogan, O’Hara’s 6-2 all-everything forward, first crossed paths with Scott at a camp in fifth grade. It wasn’t a great camp. The highlight was the two girls playing one-on-one against each other.
Scott won those battles. Doogan wasn’t yet the University of Richmond recruit she has become. The senior knew she hadn’t met anyone quite like her future teammate. Once Scott and Doogan joined forces at O’Hara, it clicked.
“None of my friends in grade school really had that kind of personality,” Doogan said. “It was a little different. She’s non-stop. But she’s a great person to have in your corner.”
O’Hara wasted little time taking control against Mechanicsburg. The Lions opened with a 9-1 run and kept adding to it. The lead was 28-5 at halftime. It was a suffocating defensive performance. The District 3 runner-up shot 1-for-23 in the first half.
Rullo scored a team-high 17 points. Doogan scored 11 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Annie Welde had 10 rebounds.
Then there was Scott. The catalyst for every possession.
“I’m going to miss her so much next year,” Chrissie Doogan said. “She’s high-energy and she doesn’t take herself too seriously, which is nice. She has really adapted to the role of team-first player.”
O’Hara was supposed to reach this point. The Lions were the presumptive favorites from the moment the bracket was revealed. They have lived up to that billing with four wins, all by at least 16 points.
It’s one thing to be expected to reach the final. It’s another to get there convincingly.
“I think I’m the one losing the most sleep of anybody,” Chrissie Doogan said. “I’m the one that’s worried about not getting back. These guys haven’t thought too much about it. They’re just out there playing and enjoying themselves. Make the season last as long as they can.”
It can’t go any longer.
After the final buzzer sounded and a victory that felt like a formality was secure, O’Hara’s players were pelted by Hershey’s kisses. Scott ducked behind Maggie Doogan for safety. It was a little trick she picked from last season. Those silver pellets come flying fast.
When Scott was a freshman, Chrissie Doogan pulled the newcomer aside and let her know the important role she was about to play. All that energy had to be directed somewhere.
“You have the ability to bring a team up or bring a team down with you,” Doogan said.
Scott has lifted O’Hara. To one state championship and maybe one more.
Cardinal O’Hara: 9 | 19 | 6 | 16 || 50
Mechanicsburg: 3 | 2 | 7 | 6 || 18
Cardinal O’Hara: Molly Rullo 17, Maggie Doogan 11, Sydni Scott 7, Annie Welde 5, Sophia Stellabotte 3, Joanie Quinn 3, Greta Miller 2, Maria McCallen 2.
Mechanicsburg: Cassie Eager 5, Emma Castilla 5, Jayden Eager 2, Gracen Nutt 2, Priya Loran 2, Tailah Rohrer 2.