Seton-La Salle ends Mohawk’s magical run
Seton-La Salle (73) Vs. Mohawk (45)
By Andrew Petyak
New Castle News

The historic run is over.

The Mohawk High girls basketball team’s journey through the PIAA Class AA playoffs came to an end in the quarterfinal-round last night with a 73-45 loss to Seton-La Salle at New Castle High School.

It was a season of accomplishments and accolades for the Lady Warriors. Mohawk (19-8) won its first section title since 2001, going 11-1 against Section 2 opponents. By advancing to the final eight teams in the state tournament, it became the first team since 1983 to accomplish that feat.

“We met almost everything we wanted to accomplish,” Lady Warriors coach Mike O’Lare said. “Of course you want to win the WPIAL championship and the state championship, but only one team gets to do that. We lost two games away from the WPIAL championship against the WPIAL champ, and we lose two games ahead of the state title to what probably will be the state champ. I don’t know what else you can do.

“The one thing about them is, no matter what goal we set for them, they’ve achieved it every time — up to the section title this year and playing into that WPIAL and state playoffs. We haven’t done it in 30 years, we haven’t talked about it, but now we can. I told them, it’s something that’s not going to really sink into them until maybe 10 or 12 years. It’s going to be awhile until they’ve really grasped what they’ve accomplished.”

Things couldn’t have started out worse for Mohawk against the Lady Rebels (27-2), trailing 14-2 with 2:05 left in the first quarter. Seton-La Salle, the defending WPIAL and state champions, averaged nearly 70 points per game coming into the contest and didn’t waste any time attempting to get to that mark early on.

“We’ve talked all year that when we get down like that, we’ve been able to come back,” O’Lare said. “But at some point, somebody is going to get on you, and you’re not going to be able to recover and we truly, right out of the gate, couldn’t recover.”

Natalie Piaggesi notched six points for the Lady Rebels in the early run and scored a team-high 15. At 6-foot-2, her size advantage made things difficult for the Lady Warriors from the start.

“Natalie’s a unique player because she’s 6-foot-2 and the tallest player on our team, but she’s a guard,” Seton-La Salle coach John Ashaolu said. “She’s probably one of the best shooters on the team. She’s so tall, she hunts the ball defensively and helps make up for our mistakes. If someone goes by our guard, she’s there to block shots. She had about five or six blocks this game. She came out, she played very well and she had great energy.”

Mohawk rallied to make the score 14-6, but that’s as close as the team would get the rest of the game. The Lady Rebels were aggressive on defense, forcing 13 of their 24 turnovers in the first half.

“It was exactly our worst nightmare and it happened. It was their length, their quickness and their speed,” O’Lare said. “It was wave after wave after wave, and it didn’t matter who had the ball on our team, they were doubling and we were just turning it over.”

Said Ashaolu of his team’s defensive performance, “We want our defense to dictate our offense. We want to get a lot of steals and play fast. But also, we also want to be able to execute and play slow in the half-court defense.”

Paige Ruby was the only Mohawk player to score in the first quarter and led the team with six points heading into halftime. She finished the contest with 12 points.

Seton-La Salle held a 34-12 advantage at the break. The Lady Rebels will go on to play Bishop Canevin in the Final Four in a rematch of this year’s WPIAL championship in which the Lady Crusaders won, 56-47.

“That’s what we always try to do. I always tell the girls that we want to impose our will from the get-go,” Ashaolu said. “We don’t want to let a team get into a game and give them confidence. We want to impose our will, establish ourselves and let the other team know that we’re going to play defense.”

The Lady Warriors’ offense came alive in the third quarter, scoring 18 points in the frame. But the Lady Rebels proved too much to handle on offense, answering with 27 of their own.

Seton-La Salle featured a balanced attack with 11 players getting in the scoring column. Nicolete Newman joined Piaggesi in double digits with 14. Angela Heintz followed with 11 and Cassidy Walsh was next with 10.

Mohawk’s leading scorer Shelby Brown picked up her game in the second half. After being held to two points through the first 16 minutes, the guard bucketed 13 points to finish with a team-high 15.

Brown was one of eight seniors entering the season for the Lady Warriors — including Devon Giancola, Lucia Fee, Katie Hoover, Hannah Morrow, Cara Trotter, Ruby and junior varsity player Madison Bredl.

“They were sixth graders when I got hired here. At sixth grade, you knew they had some talent, but they were sixth graders,” O’Lare said. “Every year they stuck together. When you’re at a Class AA school like ours and you get eight of them to stick together, you’ve got eight of them that have skill, you’re going to be pretty good when those girls rise all the way to the top.

“It’s going to be awhile until they’ve really grasped what they’ve accomplished. In terms of what they’ve done for the school district this year, they’ve created such a buzz around the program. It gave our district and it gave people within our district, our fans and our community something to rally behind and it showed.”

Game Scoreboard
Seton-La Salle 16 18 27 12 0 73
Mohawk 6 6 18 15 0 45
Box Scores
Shelby Brown 5 5-7 15
Lucia Fee 1 0-0 2
Devon Giancola 1 0-2 2
Hannah Morrow 0 3-5 3
Melissa Verlotte 0 0-0 0
Aliya Gage 1 3-6 5
Samantha Carr 2 2-7 6
Paige Ruby 5 2-2 12
Jaki Bender 0 0-0 0
Cara Trotter 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 15 15-29 45.

Shaunay Edmonds 2 0-0 5
Nicolete Newman 6 1-2 14
Naje Gibson 3 0-3 6
Angela Heintz 4 2-2 11
Natalie Piaggesi 5 5-6 15
Katherine Hart 0 1-2 1
Cassidy Walsh 3 3-3 10
Morgan Henderson 1 0-0 2
Julie DeKlaven 1 0-0 3
Giavanna Facchiano 1 0-0 3
Alexia Facchiano 0 3-4 3
Madalena Psillidis 0 0-0 0
Julia Cipollone 0 0-0 0
Bridget Sigg 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 26 15-22 73.

MOHAWK 6 6 18 15 — 45
SETON-LA SALLE 16 18 27 12 — 73
3-point goals — Seton-La Salle 6 (Edmonds 1, Newman 1, Heintz 1, Walsh 1, DeKlaven 1, G. Facchiano 1).

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