NEW CASTLE —
Final Score — Bishop Canevin 63, Mohawk 27.
That was the aftermath of the Mohawk High girls basketball team’s exit in the first round of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs a season ago. With a rematch tonight, this time in the quarterfinals, this year’s version of the Lady Warriors are determined to flip the switch on Bishop Canevin.
Seventh-seeded Mohawk (17-6) will square off against the second-seeded Lady Crusaders (19-4) at 6:30 p.m. at West Allegheny High School in hopes of pulling the upset.
“By no means are we writing our obituary already,” Lady Warriors coach Mike O’Lare said. “We’re going down there to win. It’s going to be a big test to see if we have improved (over last year) and if we can compete with them. Hopefully, we can pull out the win.”
Mohawk earned its way to the second-round matchup with a 45-36 victory over Beaver on Tuesday. Bishop Canevin was dominant in its 65-28 win over Neshannock on the same night.
Erin Waskowiak, a 5-foot-11 senior guard, is the star for the Lady Crusaders, leading the team with 15 points, eight rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. A Duquesne recruit, she poured in 31 points against the Lady Lancers in the first round and 25 against the Lady Warriors in the playoffs a season ago.
“She’s their best player,” O’Lare said. “She slashes to the basket and shoots the basketball. She’ll also post you up because of her mismatch in the size.”
The scoring options don’t end with Waskowiak. Carly Forse, a 5-10 senior forward, follows with a team-high 10.5 rebounds a game while netting an average of 14 points.
“She really plays off of Erin well with an inside-out game,” O’Lare said. “She’s a good player who has the threat of scoring.”
They are followed by Celina DiPietro, a 5-10 senior guard, averaging 13 points a game and Johnie Olkosky, a 5-9 junior forward, who follows with 10.
Gina Vallecorsa, a 5-8 freshman, commands the offense from the point guard position.
“They do a very good job defensively. They’re an older team overall, and they can change their defenses, sometimes on the fly, and keep you completely off balance the entire game without getting out of position in doing so,” O’Lare said.
Shelby Brown, a 5-7 senior point guard, leads the Lady Warriors offense into the rematch. She holds team highs in scoring (16.6 points a game), 3-pointers (38) and free-throw percentage (90 of 116, 78 percent).
“Shelby Brown is an outstanding player,” Bishop Canevin coach Tim Joyce said. “She has ability to hit shots off the dribble. She does a job for them. She will be difficult to handle.”
Devon Giancola, a 5-8 senior guard, has the ability to shoot from behind the arc, nailing 31 3-pointers during the season. Her impact was felt in Tuesday’s victory over the Lady Bobcats, as she notched 11 points in the first half to give Mohawk a comfortable advantage. With Lucia Fee, a 5-5 senior guard, and her nine 3-pointers, the Lady Warriors have the ability to put up the deep ball.
Inside, Mohawk presents a tough presence in starting senior forwards Paige Ruby and Hannah Morrow. At 5-10, Ruby has tallied 8.9 points per game and shoots a consistent 32 of 52 from the charity stripe (61.5 percent). Morrow, 5-7, also is solid from the line (29 of 48, 60.4) and has the ability to knock down outside shot (three 3-pointers).
“They do a nice job posting up,” Joyce said. “They’re a very disciplined team and they do a good job of setting up at half court.”
Defense has been a staple for the Lady Warriors all season. The team has let up just 38.9 points a game heading into its 24th game this season.
“I’ve seen them playing zone and seen them playing man,” Joyce said. “You have to be prepared for either.”
It’s no secret that Mohawk will have to be on its game defensively if it wishes to stick with the Lady Crusaders. The Lady Warriors offense hasn’t shown the ability to put big scores on the board (45.5 points a game), while Bishop Canevin has no problems putting the ball in the basket, averaging 56 a game.
“We worked a lot at recognizing on the fly what defenses they’re going to be in and getting our people to the right spots offensively,” O’Lare said. “Sometimes, our offense turns the ball over in stretches and gives teams easy baskets. We can’t have one lapse. We have to play good defense and take care of the ball and score all night — not in two- or three-minute stretches.”
Keeping sure-shooting Mohawk off the line remains a focal point of Joyce’s team.
“Pretty much, we have to defend well and stay out of foul trouble and rebound,” he said. “We need to be able to execute our offense.”
A tough nonsection schedule has both teams battle-hardened for the stretch run. The Lady Crusaders have been tested by Section 4 champion Seton-La Salle and also by solid opponents outside of the district like Franklin and Villa Maria Academy to mixed results. The Lady Warriors held up against Class AAAA Seneca Valley and Class AAA Mars in efforts to ready itself for the final weeks.
“You have to play as many of those games that you can to be able to prepare yourself for teams like Bishop Canevin,” O’Lare said. “You can’t hide from them. When you get to the final eight teams, you can’t hide from anybody.”
(Relive magic moments from the past with our “Big Shots” feature today on The Bounce. To view the latest video, CLICK HERE.)
NEW CASTLE —
Final Score — Bishop Canevin 63, Mohawk 27.
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