NEW CASTLE —
The Mohawk High girls basketball team knows what it takes to beat Beaver.
When the seventh-seeded Lady Warriors (16-6) battle the 10th-seeded Lady Bobcats (17-4) at 6:30 p.m. today in the first round of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs at Butler High School, it will be with the confidence of having defeated Beaver already this season — a 46-40 triumph over the Lady Bobcats just nine days ago.
Despite carrying momentum from a win in the first matchup, Mohawk coach Mike O’Lare knows beating Section 6 champion Beaver a second time will be no easy task.
“They’ve won 17 games this season. They’ve definitely won their fair share of games,” he said. “We kind of got a good feel of who they are when we played them before. (Lady Bobcats coach) Greg (Huston) also coached at Neshannock. A lot of what he did at Neshannock, he does at Beaver. We know they’re going to guard you hard.”
Huston spent three seasons as the boss of the Lady Lancers basketball team, compiling a 42-31 record, before taking the job with the Lady Bobcats after the 2009 season.
“That’s where I got my start, at Neshannock. I’m grateful for the opportunity they gave me,” he said. “I’ve known Mike for awhile. We both started coaching (in the county) the same year. I’ve known him for seven years now. I’ve always respected the teams that he puts out there. They always do a good job and I enjoy playing against them.”
There were two keys to the Section 2 champion Lady Warriors victory in the first meeting — defensive adjustments and 3-pointers.
Beaver jumped out to an early first-half lead before a change from a man-to-man to zone defense by Mohawk turned the tide.
“I thought defensively we didn’t play very well out of the gate,” O’Lare said. “We were able to go on a 17-2 run end of the first to halftime (with the adjustment). That led to some easy baskets for us on the offensive end.”
The Lady Warriors’ switch to a zone in essence dared the offensively inconsistent Lady Bobcats to make shots, something Beaver wasn’t able to do. Mohawk fared better with its shooting opportunities, dropping in three key 3-pointers from guards Devon Giancola and Shelby Brown in a game-deciding 15-point third quarter.
“I think they were up one at halftime. The 3-pointers were the big difference of the game. We weren’t able to match that,” Huston said. “We have got to do better offensively. We’re not a run-and-gun type team. We have some quality players and we didn’t get our shots in good spots. I’ll take responsibility for that.
“They played a lot of man-to-man in the film. They’ve got athletes out there who are tough defenders to get around and get shots off of. Mike has them working hard and confident. If you’re a confident team, it doesn’t matter what you’re running, you’re going to be tough to score on.”