Corey J. Corbin
New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
The road to the A.J. Palumbo Center starts Friday for local high school girls basketball teams.
Neshannock, Mohawk, Laurel and Shenango learned their playoff seedings when the WPIAL’s opening-round matchups were announced last night at the DoubleTree Hotel.
The district’s eight championship games will be played at Duquesne University’s A.J. Palumbo Center on Feb. 28 and March 1.
“This is what you play the whole year for,” Mohawk coach Mike O’Lare said. “You play the whole season and go through the whole offseason. You do all that work to get to this week. The win or go home mentality is what you play for.”
THE FOURTH SEED
Neshannock (21-1) paced the four schools, earning the No. 4 seed and the first-round bye that goes with it by winning Section 2-AA outright with an 11-1 record. Seton-La Salle, Burrell and Greensburg Central Catholic received the top three seeds.
“I thought going 21-1 would help us,” Neshannock coach Luann Grybowski said. “Burrell was undefeated. Seton is Seton. They’re the No. 1. There’s no doubt about that. I thought we could’ve been seeded anywhere between three and six. It is what it is. You have to play ‘em all. We’ll show up to play.”
The Lady Lancers will face the Washington-Shady Side Academy winner Tuesday at a time and site to be determined. Washington (13-8) placed third in Section 4, while Shady Side (10-12) was third in Section 3.
“I don’t know anything about them, yet,” Grybowski said. “We’ll have to go watch them play. The girls are excited. We’re gonna get to work and take it one game at a time. We’ll see what happens.”
Neshannock could see a familiar foe in fifth-seeded Bishop Canevin in the quarterfinals if both teams win their first playoff games.
“Every playoff game is important, but this is the fourth year out of five that I’ve made it that if we get out of the first round that we’ll play Bishop Canevin,” Grybowski said.
Mohawk (16-5) finished second in Section 2 with a 9-3 record and drew a date with South Side Beaver (11-11), the fourth-place finisher in Section 5, at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Moon.
“We’re not at the point where we’re just happy to be in,” O’Lare said. “We’re ready to get in and win. We’ll find out if these are winnable games or not. I think where we are is a good place to be. We’re definitely not just happy to be here.”
The winner will earn the No. 11 seed and will face sixth-seeded Carlynton on Tuesday at a time and site to be determined. Carlynton (18-3) topped the Section 6 standings.
“The seeding is nice,” O’Lare said. “We played up to it this year. We played well down the stretch and earned the spot, but you have to beat them all if you want to win the championship.”
The Lady Warriors are back in the playoffs after losing nearly 93.7 percent of their scoring from last year’s state quarterfinalist.
“These kids are ready,” O’Lare said. “Some of them did get in last year and were a part of our run. Sure, there’s going to be some nervousness, but I don’t think they’ll have that deer in the headlights look to them.
“They may not have been key components to that team, but they were along for the ride. They know what’s going to happen and they know these games are important. They’re extremely excited to get their chance at the playoffs this time.”
Laurel (12-9) will play Ford City (14-7) at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Butler after securing a third-place tie with Shenango in Section 2 with 7-5 records.
Ford City finished second in Section 1.
“The girls are excited,” Laurel coach Jessica Shevitz said. “It’s been 15 years for Laurel girls basketball. We’ve been in the gym. We’re ready to play.”
Third-seeded Greensburg Central Catholic (17-4), the Section 3 champion, awaits the winner Tuesday at a time and site to be determined.
“It’s about where we expected,” Shevitz said. “We let those games with Riverside and Shenango slip away, so I knew we’d slide a little bit. Sure, we’d like to be up where Mohawk is, but we didn’t take care of business, so we’re where we’re at. This is the playoffs. You have to show up and play.”
THE DROUGHT ENDS
The Lady Wildcats (12-9) are back in the playoffs for the first time since the 1996-97 season and drew Charleroi (17-5), the second-place finisher out of Section 5.
“The girls can’t get smiles off their faces,” Shenango coach Brian Turk said. “They’re excited. It’s like the day before Christmas. This has been huge for their morale and huge for the school.
“As soon as seven o’clock hit, my phone started to blow up. The girls were wanting to know who we were going to play next and we ended up with Charleroi. That’s a pretty good draw for us. They were one of the five or six teams that I thought we might get. I’m excited to get back and watch film on them to see what we can do defensively to stop them.”
Undefeated Section 1 champion Burrell (22-0) received the No. 2 seed and will play the Shenango-Charleroi winner Tuesday at a time and site to be determined.
“At this point last year, we were sitting at home watching the snow fly,” Turk said. “We weren’t able to do anything. Right now, their spirit is up. The girls have been wanting to get in the gym every day. We’re excited to get going.
“We’re hoping to advance a few rounds. When we sat down and saw who the five or six teams we could possibly be playing, we saw that we could compete with those teams. We haven’t played them, but we thought stat-wise we matched up good. My girls will come out fighting. We may have that deer in the headlights look to us for a quarter or so, but we could go a round or two as long as we play well.”
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