Mohawk back in section title conversation
Mohawk (58) Vs. Riverside (53)
By Andrew Koob
New Castle News

It’s difficult to prepare for the type of situation that the Mohawk High girls basketball team was in Thursday night.

With an opportunity to climb right back into the WPIAL Section 1-AA title conversation, the Lady Warriors did just enough to put away visiting Riverside in a 58-53 victory that kept Mohawk within striking distance of the section title.

“It’s hard, you can’t simulate the environment, the crowd, the time and score of the game in practice,” Mohawk coach Mike O’Lare said. “It’s a little bit different in a game when the pressure is on. We have some young kids out there with some seniors, we did enough to do what we needed to get the win, but it wasn’t pretty down the stretch.”

Mohawk (7-3 section, 15-3 overall) still needs help if it wants to capture the section title. With two section games remaining, the Lady Warriors are a half game back of the Lady Panthers and a full game back of current leader Neshannock, which bested Mohawk in both contests this season.

“It’s a big win, but it just makes the next two bigger,” O’Lare said. “But that’s what we want and we won’t hide from that. We want to win the next two games and at least give ourselves a chance.”

Neither side took a decisive advantage in the opening half as the largest lead of the first 16 minutes was four points in favor of Riverside at the end of the first quarter.

The first four minutes of the third quarter followed that script, with the two teams trading points to a 29-all tie.

That’s when the Lady Warriors pounced, scoring the final 13 points of the third quarter which was capped off by a Carlee Stelter three-point shot with seconds remaining.

“It was awesome. I knew we had the momentum going into the fourth quarter,” Stelter said. “That helped a lot moving forward.”

Mohawk would extend its lead to 16 points before the Lady Panthers (8-3, 16-3) started to make their comeback attempt.

Riverside was forced to switch to a full-court trap defense and created havoc en route to an 11-2 run that cut the Mohawk lead to just four points midway through the fourth quarter.

“They started that and they made things a little more chaotic and we started turning the ball over,” O’Lare said. “At the end of the day, that’s what they had to do and we could have done a little better job of handling it, but we handled it enough to win.”

The Lady Warriors only hit one field goal from the floor in the final quarter, off of an Aliya Gage and-one, but were 14 of 17 from the free-throw line. Stelter was 5 of 6 in the quarter, while Gage and Erin Giancola hit six of their combined seven fourth-quarter attempts.

“We’re not a very good free-throw shooting team but tonight we were,” O’Lare said. “I think we shoot 60 percent. But the right players got the shots for us at the right time. We knew they were coming, it’s hard to practice that environment and situation in practice. You’re up 10 and you’re trying to not turn it over instead of trying to run your offense.”

Stelter, a sophomore, scored a team-high 18 points, including two 3-pointers, in the victory. Eight of those points came in the third quarter as the Lady Warriors created separation.

“I was just feeling it tonight,” Stelter said. “I knew going into tonight that this was a big game, we needed a big performance. I just tried to stay calm and not worry about it.”

Added O’Lare “It’s hard because sophomores are sophomores but, at this time of the year, she’s becoming a junior. Sometimes they play really well and she’s asked to do a lot for us as a point guard. She’s played some really good games and games that show she’s a sophomore. Tonight she played big in a big game.”

Mohawk also had three separate players score 12 points each in Gage, Giancola and Makenzie McConnell, who posted a career-high in her third game back since missing a month and a half with a concussion.

“(Makenzie) was huge, she hasn’t played in a month-and-a-half,” O’Lare said. “To come back from that and hit huge shots in the beginning of the game, she adds a different dimension to our defense by being an athletic guard. It’s nice to get her back at this time of year and play like she did tonight. She was a big difference.”

McConnell scored eight of the first 10 points for the Lady Warriors in the opening quarter, utilizing backdoor cuts and openings in the post to score easy layups.

Katie Stang paced Riverside with a game-high 31 points, including 15 of the Lady Panthers’ 21 first-half points. Overall, Riverside connected on 14 field goals, 10 coming from beyond the arc.

Game Scoreboard
Mohawk 10 11 21 16 0 58
Riverside 14 7 8 24 0 53
Box Scores
Jordan Annarumo 1 0-0 3
Sydney Wolf 3 0-0 9
Ashley Boehm 0 0-0 0
Abbey Matiko 1 0-0 3
Katie Stang 7 12-13 31
Natalie Bologna 0 0-0 0
Morgan Bailey 2 3-4 7
Bekah Bettencourt 0 0-0 0
Totals: 14 15-17 53

Aliya Gage 4 4-5 12
Ashley McConnell 1 2-2 4
Erin Giancola 3 6-7 12
Makenzie McConnell 5 1-2 12
Madison Shiderly 0 0-0 0
Carlee Stelter 5 6-8 18
Abbey Westcott 0 0-0 0
Caitlin Carnuche 0 0-0 0
Totals: 18 19-24 58

RIVERSIDE 14 7 8 24 — 53
MOHAWK 10 11 21 16 — 58

3-point goals — Riverside 10 (Stang 5, Wolfe 3, Matiko 1, Annarumo 1), Mohawk 3 (Stelter 2, M. McConnell 1).
JV score: No game.
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