NEW CASTLE —
LIFETIME OF MEMORIES
The real magic didn’t begin for Mohawk and Brown until the playoff season began. An 11-1 regular season mark in section, which earned that elusive section crown, clinched a preliminary-round bye for the Lady Warriors in the WPIAL playoffs. The team edged past Beaver, 45-36, in the first round but lost to Bishop Canevin, 56-44, in the second round.
After a bit of scoreboard watching and finger crossing, Mohawk was able to sneak into the PIAA playoffs with a first-round matchup against Everett at Pitt-Johnstown.
Having dealt with the emotions and the real possibility of never suiting up for the Lady Warriors again after the loss to Bishop Canevin, Brown and her teammates had to get their game faces back on and take advantage of their new-found life.
If she was going to perform well in her first state game, Brown would have to do it without two of her biggest fans.
“It was hard for me mostly because my parents (Linny and Brenda Brown) were down in Florida watching my sister (Westminster College star Chelsea) play softball. They had tickets early to come home and see my first state game. Their flight got canceled. It was hard. My dad never missed a game,” an emotional Brown said. “Coach O’Lare came up to me before the game, when we were doing pre-game warmups, and grabbed me to the side and said that he knew they have been there for me every game and that he knows they followed me, but he said not to worry and play for yourself this game. You’re a good enough player and play for yourself and don’t worry about it, and don’t let it worry you. He said I need to be tough about this.”
Showing resolve, Brown boarded the team bus home with 27 points and a black eye after a 52-44 victory, the first state win for the program since 1983.
“My dad told me how coach O’Lare texted him after the game and said he should be really proud of his daughter for doing as well as she did without her parents there,” Brown said. “Winning that game was awesome. We had never done that for so many years.”
Brown added 25 in a 56-49 decision over North East in the second round, a performance O’Lare believes to be the best game Brown has ever played.
“She was just fantastic that game,” he said. “When everything is on the line and her career can be over, she’s playing like that.”
With North East pressing to spoil a late Lady Warriors’ lead with a barrage of six-straight 3-pointers, it was Brown’s steady free-throw shooting, she went an incredible 16 of 18, that sealed the win.
That victory put Mohawk into the state’s final eight. Students, teachers and fans started to feel the fever. More than 300 showed up at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House, site of the Lady Warriors quarterfinal-round matchup against Seton-La Salle.
“It was a great feeling. Coach put up a couple of goals at the beginning of the year,” Brown said. “The first one was to win section, then to get into the playoffs, go as far as you can go there, make the state playoffs and then ride the wave. When we got to the state playoffs, we were all like this is unreal. Nobody has done it in 30 years. It’s been so long since the school has seen the team go that far.”
The ride came to an end with a 73-45 loss to the Lady Rebels that night. Brown had a team-high 15 points. Mohawk finished the season 19-8.
She averaged nearly 22 points a game in the team’s state playoff run with the challenge of added scouting, added pressure and better opponents on the other side of the court.
“That’s really the mark of a player —what they do in crunch time and when their season is on the line, not just in the middle of January,” O’Lare said. “It’s what they do in the state playoffs and big games at the end of the year.
“That’s what she did. She got better and better and wanted to win so bad.”
Brown finished the season as the county’s top scorer with 17 points a game, placed second in free throw-shooting at 79.2 percent and was runner-up in 3-pointers with 41. She also earned section MVP honors and a first-team nomination.
“I felt like I had accomplished my goals that I had set for myself the last couple of years. I owe a lot to coach O’Lare and Bill McNees. I go to him for private lessons. I went to him after my freshman year, and I’ve been working with him over the summer for the last four years. He switched my game up, switched my shot up and switched my mentality for the game. If I didn’t have O’Lare to push me toward those goals, I remember him showing me a list at the beginning of this year of the top players in the WPIAL, and I wasn’t on that. He said that this is my goal and I need to be on that list. I owe a lot to them and being that far up in the county. They pushed me to that.”