Mohawk girls move on, make history, with win
Mohawk (56) Vs. North East (49)
By Andrew Petyak
New Castle News

Thirty years is a long time to wait.

The Mohawk High girls basketball program need wait no more.

The Lady Warriors will make their first PIAA Elite Eight appearance since 1983 after coming away with a 56-49 second-round victory over North East at Meadville High School last night.

“I’m not going to look at it that way,” Mohawk coach Mike O’Lare said of the accomplishment. “I am just going to look at it with this group of kids — for their first time. For this year, and for right now, with these kids, it’s well deserved. They’ve worked so hard and they’ve earned everything they’ve gotten.”

The Lady Warriors will battle WPIAL runner-up Seton-La Salle in the quarterfinals Friday at a time and place to be announced. The Lady Rebels upended Greensburg 58-38 to advance to the PIAA quarterfinals.

Things didn’t favor Mohawk (19-7) in the early going, as the Lady Grapepickers jumped to an 10-4 lead with 2:30 remaining in the first quarter.

“To be honest, I bet in 20 of our 26 games we’ve been down 10-2, 10-6 or 12-6, then somebody makes a play or two in a row and gets us back,” O’Lare said. “I don’t like it, to be down like that, but they don’t lose focus when it’s that early in the game.”

Guard Devon Giancola was the player to step up. After nearly turning the ball over, Giancola recovered and scored on a layup. She followed that with a 3-pointer to make it 10-9 on the team’s next offensive possession.

“Since we were down by so much, I knew I needed to make a play,” Giancola said. “Once I got that first bucket, I just came back and felt it. I started making 3-pointers.”

Giancola carried the team in the second quarter, nailing back-to-back treys to give the Lady Warriors a 24-18 lead. She finished with 13 points, all in the first half.

Mohawk ended the half on a 13-5 run and held the advantage 29-20.

“We win games when we score 56 because Devon is scoring, too. In our last couple games, she’s defended well, she’s rebounded well, but she hasn’t been able to get off on her scoring,” O’Lare said. “When we’re at our best, she’s scoring like she’s capable of.”

District 10 champion North East (23-4) was down, but not out. The Lady Grapepickers responded in the third quarter, pouring in six straight 3-pointers to cut into the deficit. Alex Artise, the program’s leading scorer and Mercyhurst recruit, began the second-half effort with the first two 3-pointers. She tallied a team-high 19 points. For the game, the North East collected 11 3-pointers.

“We were in a 2-3 defense, and we played it the whole first half and played it in the third quarter,” O’Lare said. “We eventually switched out into the man, but they caught fire before that. When they got six (3-pointers), three or four of them were deep. We were on them; it wasn’t them having wide-open players. They were making them. Sometimes you’ve just got to switch your defense because there’s nothing else you can do.”

After 3-pointers from Tori Prather and Anne Lewis, North East regained the lead 35-34 with 3:04 left in the third. Lewis scored seven points and Prather bucketed five.

“Obviously, it was very nerve-wracking,” Giancola said. “We switched our defense up to what we always do, man-to-man, and it really worked a lot better for us in that situation.”

The Lady Warriors tied the game at 39 heading into the fourth quarter after a Samantha Carr 3-pointer.

“We talked in that timeout about the first play we were going to run (in the fourth). If their girls come out on the screen, I wanted Shelby (Brown) to step back and shoot it. All night, they were stepping out on screens and she wasn’t shooting it,” O’Lare said. “When we set up that play in the huddle, I said to her that she had to take that shot.”

Mohawk turned to its star point guard in the fourth quarter. Brown, who scored 27 points in the first-round matchup against Everett, is the leading scorer for the Lady Warriors, averaging 17.1 points a game.

With the ball in her hand to begin the final frame, Brown delivered, draining a 3-pointer on the designed play to give Mohawk the lead, 42-39.

“I was just feeling it,” Brown said. “Coach just pulled me on to the side and said that next time they come on the screen, I had to pull up and shoot it. So I did, and it went in.”

Brown and Artise exchanged the next five baskets as the most anticipated matchup of the game seemed to finally come to the forefront.

“She worked the ball in. She was tough; she was a big body,” Brown said of Artise. “She is very good.”

On the strength of Brown’s eight points to start the quarter, the Lady Warriors opened up a 49-43 advantage with 3:30 remaining. However, the Lady Grapepickers wouldn’t go away, cutting the lead to one after an Alexis Bowen 3-pointer after a missed free-throw attempt from Lewis.

“We were trying to hold the ball, but if the opportunity presented to score, we wanted to take it,” O’Lare said of the sequence. “Twice there, we had opportunities to score out of that, and we missed both of them.”

With 1:43 remaining, the Mohawk defense stepped up, not allowing a scoring chance to North East the rest of the game. Artise fouled out with 26 seconds left.

“We got the big rebounds at the end. They got one shot off in the last three or four minutes of that game,” O’Lare said. “We defended and defended and rebounded.”

Brown capped off her performance with six free throws to end the game. She finished with a game-high 25 points, including 16 of 18 from the free-throw line.

“Words can’t even describe it,” Brown said. “We didn’t want the season to be over, so we played like it.”
Game Scoreboard
Mohawk 11 18 10 17 0 56
North East 13 7 19 10 0 49
Box Scores
Alexis Bowen 4 0-0 12
Alex Artise 6 4-4 19
Leah Kowalewski 1 3-4 5
Tori Prather 2 0-0 5
Madison Turiczek 0 0-0 0
Anne Lewis 2 1-1 7
Danielle Barnes 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 15 8-9 49.

Shelby Brown 4 16-18 25
Lucia Fee 0 0-0 0
Devon Giancola 5 0-0 13
Hannah Morrow 0 0-0 0
Aliya Gage 1 0-0 2
Samantha Carr 2 0-0 5
Paige Ruby 4 2-8 11.
Totals: 16 18-26 56.

NORTH EAST 13 7 19 10 — 49
MOHAWK 11 18 10 17 — 56
3-point goals — North East 11 (Bowen 4, Artise 3, Prather 2, Lewis 2); Mohawk 6 (Brown 1, Giancola 3, Ruby 1, Carr 1).
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