Lady Warriors hold off East Allegheny
Mohawk (65) Vs. East Allegheny (54)
By Ron Poniewasz
New Castle News

PITTSBURGH — Defense is a staple of the Mohawk High girls basketball program.

Friday night, coach Mike O'Lare's Lady Warriors made a defensive switch at halftime and it paid dividends.

Mohawk went from playing man defense to a 2-3 zone in the final 16 minutes to shut down East Allegheny's Amani Johnson and capture a 65-54 WPIAL Class AA preliminary-round win at Northgate.

Johnson, a sophomore, netted a game-high 25 points — including 19 in the first half. She scored all 14 of her team's points in the second quarter as the Lady Wildcats trailed by just a pair at 29-27 at the break. The Lady Warriors (18-5) came in allowing just under 35 points a game.

Johnson entered the playoffs averaging 21.4 points a game.

"We don't run much zone. But, we were at the point where we had to try something," O'Lare said. "We had to make a switch.

"We knew she was killing us. We tried a couple of different kids on her. We prepared like crazy for her. What we prepared for her didn't work at all. She was able to just get to the rim. She's a very good player. I don't know if we played a guard that good that can get to the rim that quick on us."

The win earns Mohawk the No. 13 seed and a date against fourth-seeded Bishop Canevin (18-4) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Chartiers Valley.

Johnson netted three points apiece in each of the final two periods. In fact, her fourth-quarter points came with less than a minute to go and Mohawk up by 11 prior to her first points in the final frame.

"She was definitely good. Off the dribble, we couldn't stop her very well," said Lady Warriors senior forward Erin Giancola. "We went to a 2-3 to stop her.

"We switched to 2-3 because we couldn't get the gaps. We played 2-3 to pack it in so she couldn't drive. She just kept driving and driving in the first half and she kept making them. We had to rely on our defense to win the game."

Giancola helped take care of things on the offensive end for the Lady Warriors. She tossed in a team-best 24 markers, which ties a season high which she first accomplished in a 63-45 verdict over Laurel.

"They gave me the ball and it's my job to finish," Giancola said. "I rely a lot on my teammates. They're able to get me the ball and I have to finish it off; I had to rely on pump fakes.

"(Cache Street) was guarding me. She was physical; I had to post up."

Giancola garnered 10 tallies in the first half, and then helped the Lady Warriors take command by tossing in 10 more in the third quarter to build a 46-36 buffer after three stanzas.

"I guess that's what we expect from her. She plays well," O'Lare said. "I know she doesn't want this to end. I know she's going to try and do whatever she can to get one more game for her and her teammates. I'm proud of her.

"Our guards were doing a good job of getting her the ball. We were trying to run some things for her. I think we screened well for her. I thought the guards got the ball inside pretty well for her. And then we let her do the work."

Mohawk, which never trailed in the second half, closed the third quarter on a 7-1 run to build the 10-point lead.

"That was big," O'Lare said of the 10-point lead. "We tried to run some chunks off the clock in the second half. But I think our best stuff tonight was trying to score and not trying to hold the ball. It's always nice to be up 10 after three."

Giancola noted the formula for building the lead into double figures was a basic one.

"We came together and we were talking when we were on defense," she said. "We just wanted to go stop, score, stop, score. We wanted to stop them on defense and go down the other end and score."

East Allegheny (14-9), which trailed 50-37 with 6:07 remaining, went on a 6-0 run to cut it to 50-43 with a little over three minutes to play. But Aliya Gage came down the floor and buried a 3-pointer and that spelled the end of the comeback for the Lady Wildcats.

"It takes a lot of guts to take that shot," O'Lare said. "I think maybe only seniors take that shot right there. That's another senior that you want to make plays."

Gage and Makenzie McConnell both tossed in 11 markers for Mohawk, while Carlee Stelter added nine.

Game Scoreboard
Mohawk 16 13 17 19 0 65
East Allegheny 13 14 9 18 0 54
Box Scores
Cache Street 4 3-4 11
Amani Johnson 8 8-12 25
Marissa Smith 2 0-0 4
Ashley Harner 3 0-0 6
Myla Bortoluzzi 4 0-0 8
Katie Jenkins 0 0-0 0
Haley Daugherty 0 0-0 0
Totals: 21 11-16 54

Aliya Gage 2 5-6 11
Ashley McConnell 2 3-4 7
Erin Giancola 10 4-6 24
Makenzie McConnell 4 2-4 11
Megan Meyer 0 0-0 0
Madison Shiderly 1 1-2 3
Carlee Stelter 1 6-6 9
Abbey Westcott 0 0-0 0
Caitlin Carnuche 0 0-0 0
Totals: 20 21-28 65

EAST ALLEGHENY 13 14 9 18 — 54
MOHAWK 16 13 17 19 — 65

3-point goals — East Allegheny 1 (Johnson 1), Mohawk 4 (Gage 2, McConnell 1, Stelter 1).
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