A scowl came over Western coach Breezy Bishop's face yesterday as she called for a timeout three minutes into the second quarter.
Visiting Cardinal O'Hara from Springfield, Pa., was leading her team by 10. O'Hara (13-3) would stretch its lead to 19 in the second half before weathering a Western rally and holding on for a 64-61 victory.
The loss ended No. 1 Western's 42-game winning streak. The Doves (15-1), ranked No. 7 nationally by USA Today, had not lost since Feb. 26, 1989, when Walbrook upset them, 49-43, in the Public Schools Tournament championship game. It was Western's first home loss since the 1987-88 season, also to Walbrook. O'Hara is ranked second in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Philadelphia Inquirer.
After the game, the scowl had disappeared from Bishop's face as she reflected on the loss.
"I'm a little disappointed because we played poorly, but I can't be too unhappy with the way we came back," Bishop said.
And what a comeback it was.
Yesterday's game was reminiscent of the Doves' victory over First Colonial last season, when Western rallied from a 20-point halftime deficit to win by one. This time, however, Western came up short.
Trailing, 61-44, with 5 minutes, 24 seconds remaining, Western went on a 17-1 run -- sparked by nine points from sophomore guard Kisha Ford (28 points, seven rebounds) -- to pull within 62-61 with 40 seconds left.
On O'Hara's next possession, Stacie Keffer, the daughter of O'Hara coach Jack Keffer, followed her shot with a basket inside to give the Lions a 64-61 lead with 10 seconds remaining.
Instead of attempting a game-tying three-pointer, Western's Afriquiyah Woods drove into the lane and missed a short jumper. Joan Gallagher grabbed the rebound for O'Hara as time expired.
Bishop and Jack Keffer said they scheduled yesterday's game at this point in the season to help prepare their teams for tough games later this month.
Western especially was in need of some competition. The Doves, whose average margin of victory was 48.6 points, have not been challenged since their 59-54 win over Robert E. Lee in the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials Tournament final Dec. 28.
"Hopefully, this loss will help to put us at another level. They proved that we're beatable," Bishop said.
Said Western senior center Dana Johnson (13 points, 16 rebounds, four blocked shots): "We're not used to pressure games. We're used to a laid-back type of game. This game helped us a lot. Now we know we can be beaten, and we will always go at 100 percent from now on."
Bishop praised guards Woods and Erika Dailey, both of whom played almost the entire game despite the flu.
"Keya and Erika were both sick all week, but they got out of their sick beds and played today. We were not at full strength."
O'Hara, which was led by Chrissie Donahue (14 points) and Coleen Colsher (11 points, five steals), compensated for its height disadvantage by using its quickness on defense. The Lions' full-court press frustrated Western, as O'Hara came up with 22 steals and Western committed 36 turnovers.
"We knew they were strong inside," said Jack Keffer, whose team defeated another of the area's top teams, No. 3 St. Mary's, in the Saints' season opener in December. "We thought our guards were quicker. That's why we pressed."
Uncharacteristically, the Doves repeatedly hurried passes and had trouble catching the ball.
Poor foul shooting also hurt Western, which was 9-for-19 from the foul line, including misses on the front ends of two one-and-ones in the final 3:41. Conversely, O'Hara converted 18 of 25 free-throw attempts.
O'Hara used a 9-0 spurt to start the second quarter, and led, 41-26, at halftime. It extended its lead to 57-40 after three quarters.
Western had twice pulled within 12 points in the third quarter, but Colsher's three-point basket with 5:24 remaining in the game extended the Lions' lead to 61-44.
The Doves had scored the first six points of the game before O'Hara scored the next nine. The teams continued to trade baskets throughout the first quarter, with the Lions holding a 17-16 lead after one quarter.