Mohawk loses, but still claims title outright
Mohawk (68) Vs. Riverside (70)
Feb 06, 2009
By JOE SAGER
NORTH SEWICKLEY TWP. — It’s not often a team wins a championship the same night it loses its final regular-season game.
It happened to the Mohawk High boys basketball team last night.
Despite dropping a 70-68 overtime decision at Riverside, the Warriors still secured an outright WPIAL Section 2-AA championship.
On Jan. 27, Mohawk (9-3 section, 16-5 overall) clinched at least a share of its first section title since 1986 with a 75-53 win over Laurel. The team needed one win in its last three section battles to claim the crown alone. The Warriors lost all three, but avoided a tie for the championship as third-place Rochester upset second-place New Brighton, 58-44, last night to leave Mohawk alone at the top.
“We got the news that New Brighton went down,” Mohawk coach Kevin Wrona said. “We are happy with that. But, we would have liked to have been able to take care of it ourselves.”
The Warriors played with heavy hearts last night. Kenneth Beatty, the grandfather of Mohawk players Zach and Johnny Beatty, was killed in an automobile accident earlier in the day. Wrona was pleased with how the Warriors supported their teammates. Zach started and had six points, while Johnny came off the bench in the varsity game and did not score, although he scored 23 in the junior varsity game.
“We’re pleased with the effort. That’s all I asked from my kids. We wanted to play with tremendous passion and for each other. I am so proud of the way these guys showed up. They have their teammates’ backs,” Wrona said. “It’s been a tough day. Win or lose, all you can ask from yourself is to give your best effort. No matter what the outcome is, if you played for each other, you can walk out of here with your heads up and that’s what I tried to encourage for our guys.”
The victory set a positive tone for the host Panthers (4-8, 9-13), who graduate two seniors (Shane Rusnock and Zach Gallaher), but return four seniors next season.
“I am extremely happy for the seniors, obviously,” Riverside coach John Rorick said. “It’s kind of been this way all year, but we were able to finish it off. We’ve been close every single game, but we made the plays when we needed to make them against Mohawk.
“We played tremendous defense. That’s what won us the game,” he continued. “These guys want to win. We have a lot of guys coming back and they wanted to finish strong and get some momentum for next season. We’ll be ready to go again next year. We’ll be solid.”
The Panthers were solid in the second half last night. They used a 9-0 run early in the third quarter to neutralize Mohawk’s 12-point lead, 32-20.
Riverside trailed, 43-39, heading into the fourth, but continued to chip away at the Warriors’ advantage. The hosts grabbed the lead, 60-58, when Mason Marion swished a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left in regulation.
Following a turnover, the Panthers failed to convert on a pair of free throws with 11 seconds on the clock. That allowed Mohawk to secure the game-tying bucket when Matt Lorello’s runner fell into the hoop with three seconds remaining.
In overtime, the two foul-troubled squads traded baskets before Rusnock’s jumper gave the hosts a 68-66 edge with 29 seconds to go. The Warriors missed a pair of free throws and Marion knocked down a pair from the charity stripe for a four-point cushion, 70-66, with 16.9 seconds on the clock. After a missed Mohawk shot and a blocked Riverside attempt, Lorello converted a hoop with a second remaining, but the Warriors were unable to stop the clock and the Panthers held on for the win.
“I am extremely proud of the effort because we got down 12 and could have folded,” Rorick said. “Instead, we battled and battled and battled. It was a good win.”
Marion led all scorers with 24 points. Rusnock added 16. Jake Thellman had 12 points off the bench.
“When we needed the plays, Mason and Shane stepped up,” Rorick said. “Our best two players made plays and that’s what you want – especially from a senior.”
Lorello led the Warriors with 21 points. Jake Grim, who fouled out early in the overtime period, had 19, while Michael Henry added 15. Mohawk played without starting point guard Dan Mioni, who was ill with the flu.