New Castle News

April 17, 2012

Hall of Fame inductee: Lori Haswell Stelter

Joe Simon
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — (This is the eighth in a series of feature stories on the 2012 inductees into the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame).

There wasn’t a standard for girls basketball when Lori Haswell entered Mohawk High as a freshman in 1976.

That’s mainly because Haswell set the standard for girls basketball at Mohawk High.

Haswell became the first Mohawk female to score 1,000 points in her career — and she did it in three seasons. She missed her sophomore year with an injury, but still finished with 1,262 points (currently fourth in school history). She also did it without a 3-point line, a big disadvantage for someone who was considered a deadly shooter, according to her former coach, Alberta Kelly.

“She is the girl who changed basketball in Lawrence County,” said Kelly, who coached at Mohawk for 20 years. “She’s one of the best I’ve ever coached, if not the best.

“She could shoot from anywhere on the court. She could steal, she could pass, she could rebound — she really could do it all. I’m not bragging for her, she was that good.”

Haswell finished with a career scoring average of 19.4 points per game. She led WPIAL Section 14-AA with a 23.4 average as a senior in 1981. She set the school record for points in a game with 41 — coming in her final contest, a 56-53 playoff loss to Quaker Valley. It’s a game she remembers quite well, but not for the reasons one might think.

“I remember coach Kelly coming in and saying, ‘Do you know how many points you had,’ and I had no idea because we lost, and I’m the type, not that I’m a bad sport, but I needed a couple minutes to get over the loss — just decompress a little bit,” she said. “Coach said, ‘You had 41 points!’ I was like, ‘I would rather have 10 (points) and win.’ Honestly, I would. It was my senior year, and we could’ve won. We were the better team, we just made a few too many mistakes.”

It was that type of attitude that made the girls basketball legend one of Mohawk’s all-time greats. It’s also part of the reason she’ll be inducted into the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame on April 29 at the New Englander.

If there’s anyone to thank for the honor, it’s her dad and her brothers, said Haswell, now known as Lori Stelter after marriage. She said competing against her brothers, Shawn and Mike, both former athletes at Mohawk, helped make her a better player.

“There were three girls in my neighborhood, me and two others,” she said. “One was a Suzy homemaker, one was kind of in the middle and then there was me, the tomboy. But there were a bunch of boys. I had two brothers, one older, one younger, and I just tagged along. I played baseball, played football, played basketball. Everything they were doing, I played. And if I got bored, I’d go bake a cake with the other girl, but not very often.”

This was an odd time for a girl to be so involved in sports. There wasn’t a girls softball team at Mohawk High. No tennis. No volleyball. Basketball was it. And even then, there wasn’t a girls junior high team when Stelter was growing up.

Stelter didn’t care.

She liked sports too much to let that derail her passion to compete. She tried out for the seventh-grade boys team and made it, but because there weren’t adequate facilities for her to change, her dad didn’t allow her to continue. Still, she kept playing in backyards against any boy who would dare. She still says it was one of the best moves she made.

“You have to learn to defend yourself,” said Stelter of competing against boys. “You have to be tougher. And I knew the game inside and out. Even today with my daughter, I tell her to play against the boys, just scrimmaging and playing. I think it makes them better because the boys play quicker, they’re more athletic and that forces you to be quicker and more athletic. They’re taller than you, but if you get in the right position, they’re going to be over your back.”

Her knowledge of the game is what Kelly said separated Stelter from other great athletes. She possessed all the physical tools, but Haswell, who was named to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s “Terrific 20” as a senior, as well being a first-team all-section choice and a WPIAL Class AA All-Star, was more than just athletic.

“She was great at analyzing the other team and finding out what they were doing,” Kelly said. “She had basketball sense. If we played a zone, she wanted to play underneath the bucket. She was 5-2! But she could go anywhere she wanted on the court. Her timing was impeccable. If you were a big girl and you brought that ball down to your waist, Lori had it.”

After playing one year of college basketball at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y., Haswell decided school was more important and focused on her major of computer science. She quickly caught on to competitive slo-pitch softball (there weren’t fast-pitch leagues at the time) after her basketball career ended, and had immediate success.

Her co-ed team was the Class B state champion in 1990 and 1991 and were national champions in 1993. Haswell, a shortstop, said her entire summer was full of softball, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I played on multiple teams, and that went on for years,” she said. “We had a lot of fun times. A lot of winning, a lot of traveling. And I had a lot of good teammates. I’m not going to take credit for our success. It was a team, and we were good.”

Haswell, who still plays softball today at age 49, is married to Randy Stelter. The couple have two children: McKenzie, 16, and Carlee, 12. Lori is an IT manager for the network monitoring program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. She also coaches sixth-grade basketball at Mohawk. It’s a position her former coach isn’t surprised she took.

“She was tremendous role model for the younger kids,” said Kelly of when Haswell played in high school. “She was very encouraging. I have a niece who played basketball, and I wanted Lori to coach her because she’s so enthusiastic with kids.”

TOMORROW: Ronda Book Beery.