Mohawk races to early lead, holds off Beaver
Mohawk (45) Vs. Beaver (36)
By Andrew Petyak
New Castle News

BUTLER — In the rematch, Beaver High was no match for the Mohawk girls basketball team.

The Lady Warriors jumped to a 16-point halftime lead and held off a late Lady Bobcats run en route to a 45-36 triumph in the first round of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs at Butler High School last night.

“In the last two or three weeks, we’ve gotten off to poor starts,” Mohawk coach Mike O’Lare said. “We didn’t change anything we do. We came ready to play, maybe a little bit more than ever, and made shots early and got confidence. We really defended well that first half.”

The seventh-seeded Lady Warriors (17-6) will battle Bishop Canevin in the second round Friday at a time and place to be announced.

Having played 10th-seeded Beaver (17-5) just eight days ago, winning a 46-40 decision, O’Lare knew a quick start was a key to victory in the rematch. After going on a 14-3 run in the first quarter, Mohawk supported it by outscoring the Lady Bobcats 13-8 in the second quarter.

Guard Devon Giancola was pivotal for the Lady Warriors in the half, netting 11 of her 13 points in the first two quarters, including 6 of 8 free-throw shooting for the game. She also was a crucial player in Mohawk’s victory in the first meeting over Beaver, notching two 3-pointers to break the game open in the third quarter.

“Coming in, I knew I had to have a big game for our team. Obviously, we thought that (teammate and leading-scorer) Shelby (Brown) was going to be (defended) box-and-one all game, so somebody had to step up,” Giancola said. “The lead really helped us throughout the game because we always have our down moment, but since we were up by so many, we had that leeway.”

That down moment for the Lady Warriors started in third quarter as the Lady Bobcats slowly chipped away at the lead, cutting the deficit to as low as six with 3:30 left in the game. Beaver’s Eleanor Neeley led the rally, scoring seven of her team-high 15 points in the half.

“At halftime we talked about the first three minutes. If we could come out in the first three minutes like we started the game, you almost have a gap that they can’t catch,” O’Lare said. “Instead, we turned it over three or four times and Beaver got a little bit of confidence. It’s been that way for us all year. We don’t put up 60 and beat somebody 60-25. We’re definitely not going to do that right now when every team is good going into the final eight.”

Brown believes the defensive adjustments from the Lady Bobcats caused fits for Mohawk in the second half.

“They were jamming us a lot more and we were trying to cut through the paint so we got a couple of offensive fouls called,” Brown said. “They were getting tight on all of us. It was hard to get the ball and get it to the hoop. They were switching every screen and hedging really well. When we were coming off the screen, there was somebody right there. It was kind of hard to get to the hoop at that point.”

If Giancola was the starter, then Brown was the closer for the Lady Warriors, scoring eight points in the final 2:25 of the game to close out Beaver’s comeback hopes. Brown was steady from the line with the game in doubt, going 7 of 9 from the charity stripe with time ticking away. In the contest, Brown notched 17 points and was 12 of 16 from the line.

“I just try to settle my mind when I get to the line. Usually, I try to pretend that nothing is on the line and it’s nothing but just shooting two foul shots; usually that helps,” Brown said. “I missed a couple, but usually I just get up to the line and it’s a rhythm. I’m so used to it.”

Said O’Lare of Brown’s ability to close out games, “When you’re up maybe six or eight with two minutes to go or under, we don’t run plays for that stuff; we just run Shelby. We clear her out, we get her the ball and she knows how to create enough space where she’s not getting the five-second call. At the same time, she understands that they got to go foul her, so she’s aggressive toward them as well. She goes to the line, and they’re in. As a coach, it’s a dream to have a kid like that at the end of the game.”
Game Scoreboard
Mohawk 14 13 7 11 0 45
Beaver 3 8 10 15 0 36
Box Scores
Ruthe Neeley 1 0-0 2
Eleanor Neeley 7 1-1 15
Jennifer Kondracki 3 0-0 9
Stephanie Trbovich 0 0-0 0
Lexi Posset 2 2-2 6
Laura Herald 0 0-0 0
Ashley Kondracki 1 2-4 4.
Totals: 14 5-7 36.

Shelby Brown 2 12-16 17
Lucia Fee 4 0-0 9
Devon Giancola 3 6-8 13
Hannah Morrow 0 2-4 2
Holly Duncan 0 0-0 0
Samantha Carr 0 0-0 0
Paige Ruby 2 0-0 4.
Totals: 11 20-28 45

BEAVER 3 8 10 15 — 36
MOHAWK 14 13 7 11 — 45
3-point goals — Beaver 3 (J. Kondracki 3); Mohawk 3 (Giancola 1, Brown 1, Fee 1).
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