Playing for a shot at the state CHSAA Class A championship should have been motivation enough, but the Kellenberg girls basketball team had a score to settle with Buffalo's Cardinal O'Hara.
And now they're even. The Firebirds beat O'Hara, 60-49, Friday to advance to the 5 p.m. title game against Nazareth on Saturday at Archbishop Molloy.
"This is huge for us because they beat us [62-59] in the state championship game last year," said senior Lindsey Ehrhardt, who scored 15 points with 11 rebounds for Kellenberg (19-9) in Friday night's game.
Nazareth (8-19) reached the final with a 65-50 victory over Spellman.
"I'm so excited," said Kellenberg junior Katherine Calabro, who had 10 assists and five steals. "I have a strong feeling that we can get to Federation."
Victoria Sapraicone's layup gave Kellenberg its first lead at 23-22 with 1:55 left before halftime. Moments later, Ehrhardt came off a screen and drove to the basket, finishing another layup off the glass that gave the Firebirds a three-point lead.
Kellenberg led 25-23 at halftime and went up by as many as 10 points, courtesy of Ehrhardt's steal and subsequent layup at the third-quarter buzzer that made it 46-36.
Calabro was a big part of the team's group energy in the second half, giving teammates easy baskets, one off an inbounds feed to Caitlyn Staab with 1:48 left that gave the Firebirds a 54-47 lead. Staab had 11 points.
"We were phenomenal in handling their pressure, especially in the second half, when we came out with such fire," Ehrhardt said.