NEW CASTLE —
It’s uncharted territory for the Mohawk High girls basketball team.
The Lady Warriors are one of eight teams left in the PIAA Class AA playoffs — the first time the program has achieved that distinction since 1983.
If it hopes to advance further in the state competition, Mohawk (19-7) will need to take down a team that is used to the big stage in Seton-La Salle. The teams will square off at 6 p.m. today in a quarterfinal-round matchup at New Castle High School.
The Lady Rebels took home a WPIAL and PIAA title during a 30-0 season last year under former head coach and Union High graduate Dennis Squeglia.
With new coach Josh Ashaolu and a plethora of returning talent this season, which includes two Duquesne University recruits, Seton-La Salle (26-2) has proved it hasn’t lost much momentum.
To call the Lady Rebels offense high-powered would be an understatement — the team averages 69.8 points per game. Seton-La Salle cruised 67-16 against Kane in the first round of the state playoffs and followed that up with a 58-38 victory over Greensburg Central Catholic.
Angela Heintz and Cassidy Walsh are Duquesne recruits.
Heintz, a 5-foot-10 guard, is the unquestioned leader of the Lady Rebels as a senior. Along with leading the team by a wide margin in assists with 163, she also buckets 9.1 points a game.
“She’s the best passer on the team and plays all over the court for us,” Ashaolu said. “She’s a great leader. She does a good job of getting on the girls as a coach in the gym.”
“She’s the key to their offense,” Lady Warriors coach Mike O’Lare said. “She’s fundamentally sound and explosive. She’s the centerpiece of that team.”
Missing most of the last three weeks with a stress fracture in her foot, Ashaolu anticipates Walsh will be ready against Mohawk. At 5-7, the sophomore guard averages 10.7 points a game. Walsh was recruited by Duquesne in her freshman year and made a verbal commitment to the school soon after.
“They’ve kind of been saving her and using her when needed. She’s a very good player. They have so many weapons, they can lose a player like that and continue to win.”
Naje Gibson, a 6-0 guard/forward, is the team’s leading scorer at 13.5 points per contest. She also carries the team on the boards, grabbing 6.6 rebounds a game.
“She’s their most athletic, dynamic scorer,” O’Lare said. “She can really get moving quickly with the basketball. She’s another Division I-type player that they have.”