Cardinal O'Hara coach Linus McGinty's face lit up and he got an Irish twinkle in his eye when he talked before the season about the girls' basketball team he was getting ready to put on the floor.
But in their first two games of the season, lopsided wins over Penn Charter and West Catholic, the Lions were hardly tested. The big test for O'Hara, No. 5 in The Inquirer's Southeastern Pennsylvania rankings, would come Thursday against No. 3 Germantown Academy.
Even that didn't prove to be the matchup everyone anticipated. The unbeaten Lions (3-0) ran away to a 45-29 road victory.
"We can run, and we have height - it's a good mixture," said McGinty, who has five players 6 feet or taller. "We hadn't played any strong teams until today."
He pointed to the work of senior Alex Stam, freshman Sarah Monaghan, and junior McKenzie Rule. They provided all the spark the Lions needed against the Patriots (5-3).
Sophomore Mia Farmer was the lone scorer in double figures with 13 points, but she received help from Rule (eight) and Maureen Leahy (eight) as the Lions pushed the Patriots to near exhaustion with their size and speed.
"We tried to slow things down, but we got caught up in the pace of the game," said the Patriots' Jaryn Garner, who has committed to play for Virginia. "They are a good team, but we didn't help ourselves."
The pace and the Lions' pressure forced Germantown Academy into a 12-for-49 shooting performance from the floor. They weren't much better from the foul line.
Running from the start, the Lions jumped to a 7-0 lead before the Patriots' Fran Sweeney hit a three-pointer halfway through the first quarter.
The Patriots pulled to within 9-7 on a Garner basket, but the Lions outscored them by 18-8 over the rest of the half to take a 27-15 lead. O'Hara then scored the last six points of the third quarter to make it 37-21.
Garner, who finished with seven points to lead Germantown Academy, and teammate Natalie Toner fouled out within 40 seconds of each other late in the fourth quarter.
"We've got to learn to pace ourselves," Garner said. "We knew they would run."
Garner said the Patriots put in a new offense and got "a little frantic" when the Lions pulled away.
"I think we got a little exhausted because of the pace, and we weren't as focused as we should have been when it came to shooting," she said.
O'Hara will put its unbeaten streak on the line when it plays three tournament games in Ohio next week.
"This will be our sixth time out there," McGinty said. "We've won it once and finished 2-1 the other times. It will be a good test for us."
Cardinal O'Hara 14 13 10 8 – 45
Germantown Academy 11 4 6 8 – 29
CO: Mia Farmer 13, Shanice Johnson 4, Libby Lannon 3, Maureen Leahy 8, Sarah Monaghan 4, McKenzie Rule 8, Alex Stam 2, Rachel Guy 3.
GA: Dempsey Cooper 5, Jaryn Garner 7, Olivia Gorman 4, Megan McCloskey 2, Fran Sweeney 3, Natalie Toner 2, Kiernan McCloskey 6.