Carr driving Mohawk to playoff run
By Andrew Koob
New Castle News
Shooting guard Samantha Carr has been lighting up the scoreboard recently for the Mohawk High girls basketball team.
But it’s her work on the other side of the ball that has been the biggest change for the Lady Warriors senior.
Carr scored 18 points in a loss to Shenango, 20 points in a victory over Laurel and was a key component in holding both teams to just 42 and 43 points, respectively.
Her performance earned her Lawrence County Athlete of the Week honors, an award sponsored by Washington Centre Physical Therapy and selected by the New Castle News sports staff.
“She’s figuring that out, that we need her to score but, if we play defense, she doesn’t need to score as much,” Mohawk coach Mike O’Lare said. “That’s the biggest transformation she’s made, on the other side of the ball. She’s tasked a lot of times with guarding one of their top players and has the job of scoring for us plus trying to shut down their guard. So she has a lot on her plate, she’s not a player we send down and defense and try to hide her on a weak opponent. We try to make sure she’s guarding the best players as well as running the offense.”
Taking on those top priorities has helped raise the play of her teammates. She can count on the rest of the Lady Warriors (6-2 Section 1-AA, 12-3 overall) to pick up the slack on either side of the ball if need be.
“If my shots aren’t going in, I can always rely on my defense,” Carr said. “And I know that if I get beat off of a dribble, I have four other girls on my team to back me up. Our defense, I would say, is one of the best in the section because we just grind it out every day.”
The numbers back up her claim.
Mohawk currently is holding opponents to 36 points per game, tops in WPIAL Section 1-AA and fourth best in WPIAL Class AA, behind Our Lady of Sacred Heart (31.9 ppg.), Carlynton (32.9 ppg.) and Greensburg Central Catholic (33.5 ppg.).
“We practice it and in the games it really shows how much work we put in on defense,” Carr said. “Our defense is our offense. We don’t get fast breaks and score if we don’t play defense. We’re very proud of keeping teams to 35 or 40 points.”
Carr’s work on the defensive end, coupled with her selflessness on offense, has Mohawk on the upswing.
The results are showing, with the Lady Warriors winning eight of their last nine contests.
“We put a big emphasis on that side of the ball and very little on individual offense in terms of who scores,” O’Lare said. “In terms of what she does, we’ve been really focusing on that defensive end and on offense, just trying to work with her on shot selection and forcing it instead of running through the offense and trying to get shots through the offense.
“When she’s running through the offense, she’s scoring easier baskets, getting better quality shots versus trying to force it on one-on-two, one-on-three. I think she’s starting to see that. We’re running the offense through her, but she’s getting better shots now.”
Carr has been a threat to opponents and a leader for the Lady Warriors, but struggled with consistently scoring in the first six games. With two players injured, O’Lare feels as though Carr put unneeded pressure on herself to carry Mohawk.
“The thing that hurt her the most is we started five or six games without Melissa (Verlotte) and Aliya (Gage),” O’Lare said. “So the pressure did come, I don’t know where it came from but she put it on herself the first couple of weeks. I guess that’s what you expect as a senior, but you feel naked without a point guard and another good scorer in Aliya, so she did feel some pressure. Now that they’re back and they’re playing well, she doesn’t feel that much pressure in terms of leading, scoring and all of those things. She’s able to get into the flow of the game but, without those two, it’s definitely hard.”
Carr added, “I know earlier in the season, I didn’t have too much confidence in my shot and I was missing shots, they’d go in and out. But my teammates give me the confidence to shoot more, I’m glad they don’t get mad at me for shooting.”
Carr isn’t the first of her family members to represent Mohawk well.
Her father, Larry Carr, was a three-sport athlete at Mohawk and an NCAA All-American selection in track and field at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Her cousin, Shawn Carr, was a part of the 2001-2002 Warriors team as a sophomore that went to the state playoffs.
“My dad was a great shooter, he played basketball for years, and my cousin, Shawn Carr, was really good for Mohawk,” Samantha Carr said. “It’s in my name, in my blood I guess. We’re all hard workers, so it comes with practice.”
The Samantha Carr File
Parents: Denise and Larry Carr
Known for: Scoring 18 points in a 42-41 loss to Shenango and 20 points in a 67-43 win over Laurel.
Favorite pro team: Los Angeles Clippers. “I really like Blake Griffin.”
Favorite pro player: Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets. “I really like how he portrays himself. I know he’s switched teams, but he plays with so much swagger, I like how he plays.”
Future plans: “I’m not sure what college I want to go to yet, but I do want to play basketball and major in exercise science and be in sports medicine.”