Holding on
Mohawk (50) Vs. Laurel (47)
By Dan Irwin
New Castle News

Prosperity is something one always hopes for in a new year.

Last night, though, both the Laurel and Mohawk high basketball teams had a little trouble handling it.

Each squad built, then squandered, a comfortable lead in WPIAL Section 2-AA action at Laurel before the Warriors finally held on for a 50-47 win.

The Spartans (0-4 in the section, 2-8 overall) used a 10-2 run at the start of the second quarter to claim a 26-17 advantage with just over two minutes left in the first half. Freshman Jacob Wilson accounted for 14 of those markers.

“The first half he shot the ball extremely well,” Mohawk coach Rob Fadden noted. “He got our attention.”

That’s when the Warriors’ defense stepped up to limit Wilson to just three more points the rest of the way.

“They made a nice adjustment,” Laurel coach Ken Locke said of Mohawk’s extra effort against Wilson. “Second half, they made a couple of adjustments and unfortunately for us, it took us a little while to adjust to that.”

Those adjustments also included some additional pressure on the ball.

“We were trying to get more traps, trying to get more touches on the ball defensively and trying to get some easy looks in transition,” Fadden said.

The plan worked. Laurel turned the ball over eight times in the third quarter while scoring only four points.

Meanwhile, the Warriors (3-1, 5-5) also got things cranked up offensively. Starting with the final four points of the first half, they uncorked a 23-4 run that gave them a 40-30 advantage early in the final period. Senior guard Ryan Sager poured in 14 of his career-high 20 points during that span.

“Ryan played fantastic tonight,” Fadden said. “I hope he gained some confidence. We’ve been telling him we want to shoot the ball and want him to attack and he did that tonight, especially in the second half.”

Like the Spartans earlier in the evening, though, the Warriors weren’t able to maintain their distance. Trailing 44-35 with 3:37 to go, Laurel drained four consecutive three-pointers — three straight by Josh Dando and one by Josh Finley — to counter a pair of Sager free throws and a Vince Menichino bucket. That got the Spartans within one, 48-47, with 56 seconds remaining.

Mohawk’s Lucas Grim, who had 14 points overall, kept Laurel’s comeback hopes alive by hitting only the front ends of two straight bonus situations. Finley rebounded both misses, but the Spartans turned the ball over three times in the final 29 seconds, managing just a desperation — and errant — 3-point try by Dando at the buzzer.

Both coaches hoped the nail-biter would be a lesson to their players.

“We made some careless decisions on the offensive end, probably inside of the last three minutes,” Fadden said. “There were probably five or six shots that had no business being taken. Hopefully, we can get a teaching moment out of that and not make that mistake again.”

“We’re inexperienced, and these close games, the guys can learn from that,” Locke echoed. “We’re happy with the way the guys played, how hard they played. But we want to start winning these ones now.

“Hopefully, even though it’s a loss, we’ll get some confidence from this and realize what we can do against a good team like Mohawk.”

(Email: d_irwin@ncnewsonline.com)
Game Scoreboard
Mohawk 15 6 17 12 0 50
Laurel 16 10 4 17 0 47
Box Scores
Lucas Grim 5 4-7-14
Vince Menichino 1 0-0 2
Travis Giardina 0 0-0 0
Ryan Sager 9 2-2 20
Jonathan Grim 2 1-2 5
Saivon Watt 2 1-3 5
John Hartzell 2 0-0 4
Tyler Rader 0 0-0 0
Boyd Laughner 0 0-0 0
Totals: 21 8-14 50

James Steele 3 1-2 7
Josh Dando 3 1-2 10
Josh Finley 3 0-2 7
Jacob Wilson 7 1-1 17
Scott Siddall 3 0-0 6
Noah Wertz 0 0-0 0
Zachary Wilson 0 0-0 0
Totals: 19 3-7 47

MOHAWK 15 6 17 12 – 50
LAUREL 16 10 4 17 – 47

3-pt. field goals: Laurel 6 (Dando 3, J. Wilson 2, Finley 1).
JV game: Mohawk 50, Laurel 21. High scorer: M — Gio Menichino 10.
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