Laurel rides big second half to victory
Mohawk (46) Vs. Laurel (49)
By Corey J. Corbin
New Castle News

Jessica Shevitz knew her basketball team was going to win.

The Laurel High girls coach could see the will to win on her players’ faces even with a six-point deficit at halftime.

The visiting Lady Spartans outscored Mohawk 32-23 in the second half to pull out a 49-46 WPIAL Section 2-AA win last night.

“I could see on their faces that we were going to come back to win the game,” said Shevitz, who noted her team is one win away from securing its first playoff berth in her tenure. “This win is all about the girls and their desire to win. They’re the ones out there making the plays. I’m just directing traffic. I feel blessed to be their coach. They’re just a fun group to coach.”

Laurel’s win, coupled with Riverside’s 41-38 victory over previously unbeaten Neshannock threw the section standings into a free-for-all.

Two games separate the Lady Lancers (8-1, 17-1), Lady Spartans (6-2, 11-5) and Lady Warriors (6-3, 12-3) with two weeks left in the regular season. Shenango (5-3, 9-7) is still in the mix as well.

“We’re flying high,” Shevitz said. “It was a huge, huge, huge win, especially with Neshannock losing. That makes this win all the more important. I said very early that I wanted to peak at the end of January and that’s what we’re doing.”

Laurel held a 47-41 lead late in the fourth quarter when Samantha Carr nailed a 3-pointer to cut the deficit in half. Aliya Gage made a pair of free throws after forcing the Lady Spartans into a missed shot to pull Mohawk within 47-46 with under 30 seconds to play.

Kristin Dicks put the game away with two freebies with around five seconds left. Carr’s last second 3-pointer from the corner was short.

“They did everything right to win the game and we didn’t,” Mohawk coach Mike O’Lare said. “They’re a tough matchup for us physically. They’re bigger and stronger than us, but that doesn’t mean our kids were going to back down. Their physicality took its toll on us down the stretch.

“We have three losses and they are to two very good teams. These are games that get you prepared for games down the road. We have a young team and we need to go through things like this to learn how to bounce back.”

Mohawk took a 11-6 lead into the second quarter and extended it to 23-17 early in the third quarter.

“We weren’t very sharp in the second half,” O’Lare said. “Most of their scoring came off of our turnovers, which isn’t something our defense could do much about.”

Laurel, who finished with 13 assists on 16 field goals, mounted a comeback and took its first lead at 41-40 on Jessica Conrad’s 3-pointer.

“She came over to me shortly after that and told me ‘We need to call a timeout,’ ” Shevitz said. “They needed a moment to breath. She knew we needed it then. I just trust my seniors to make the right decisions on the floor. They make the magic out there.

“Jess really carried us. I told her that if we were going to win, it was going to be on her back. She’s such a leader out there.”

The Lady Spartans focused their efforts on slowing down Carr and Melissa Verlotte, who combined to score 42 points in the two teams’ initial meeting. Carr finished with 12 and Verlotte was held to four.

Jaki Bender stepped up for the Lady Warriors, knocking down six 3-pointers for a team-high 18 points.

“In our last game against Mohawk, Carr and Verlotte had 42 of their 56 points, so our gameplan was to hold them down tonight,” Shevitz said. “We wanted someone else to beat us. It was a calculated risk and Jaki Baker’s three’s were huge. Jaki came close to beating us.”

The six treys are a school record, O’Lare reported.

“For Jaki, shooting a three is like most other kids shooting a layup,” he said. “She’s the best shooter I’ve ever coached. Laurel likes to switch on defense and we wanted to take advantage of that with Jaki.”

Conrad finished with a game-high 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Brooke Dicks contributed 11 points and six assists.

“We made a run at the right time,” Shevitz said. “The seniors wanted this win and they weren’t going to let it slip away.”

Game Scoreboard
Mohawk 11 12 14 9 0 46
Laurel 6 11 19 13 0 49
Box Scores
Rachael Baker 3 0-0 6
Jessica Conrad 7 1-2 19
Brooke Dicks 2 6-6 11
Ellen Shaffer 1 2-4 4
Maddison Deinert 0 0-0 0
Kristin Dicks 3 2-2 9
Nicole Wade 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 16 11-14 49.

Jaki Bender 6 0-0 18
Holly Duncan 0 0-0 0
Samantha Carr 4 2-2 12
Melissa Verlotte 2 0-0 4
Aliya Gage 2 5-6 10
Ashley McConnell 1 0-0 2.
Totals: 15 7-8 46.
LAUREL 6 11 19 13 — 49
MOHAWK 11 12 14 9 — 46
3-point goals — Laurel 6 (Conrad 4, K. Dicks 1, B. Dicks 1), Mohawk 9 (Bender 6, Carr 2, Gage 1).
JV score: Laurel 22, Mohawk 40. High scorer: L — Aleyce Bell 12; M — Ashley McConnell 13, Asheli Freed 10.

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