New Castle News
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.”
The Mohawk offense goes through Brown. The 5-foot-7 senior guard is ranked second in the Lawrence County statistics for girls in scoring average with 16.4 points a game. She backs that up with 78 percent shooting from the free-throw line (78 of 100) and 37 3-pointers.
In the first matchup against Beaver, Brown scored 23 points, including a team-high three 3-pointers.
“I think it all starts with Shelby Brown,” Huston said. “She had a big game when we played them the last time. She can shoot it from the outside and gets it to the hoop. They go as she goes. It’s going to be tough to stop her. We know we need to at least get her to slow down. We’re hoping we can do a better job defensively with that.”
The Lady Warriors aren’t without other scoring threats. With eight seniors on the team all receiving valuable minutes, Mohawk brings depth that is hard to match up with.
“Paige Ruby is an excellent post player down low. She’s very physical. We have to hold her in check because she’s capable of doing it all on her own,” Huston said. “Devon (Giancola) is doing a nice job for them. They bring seven or eight girls at you and they’re all solid players.”
Ruby, a 5-10 senior forward, has accumulated 202 points on the season for an average of 9.1 points a game, good enough for second on the team. She also brings the ability to shoot from the foul line, notching 32 of 52 attempts (61.5 percent).
Giancola, a 5-8 senior shooting guard, is a big threat for the Lady Warriors from 3-point range, knocking down 30 on the season while averaging 8.8 points a game. She was second on the team with 10 points in the first game against the Lady Bobcats.
Beaver is led by its young sophomore point guard, Lexi Posset. Although she may be smaller in stature at 5-5, Posset has been standing tall for the Lady Bobcats all season.
“Posset’s the real deal. She shoots it very well and understands the game,” O’Lare said. “She’s a very well-rounded point guard. Not to take away from any other players, but she’s the key to that team. I just feel like the game revolves around slowing her down.”
With Posset making up the majority of the offense for Beaver, the team relies on tough defense for the other half of its winning formula.
“I think they’re patient,” O’Lare said. “Defensively, they want you to run your offense and play a half-court game. They score about 40 points a game but only allow 27 or 28 on defense.
“We want to pick up the speed to jump out to an early lead. Everyone knows we got Shelby and they run a lot of box-and-one on her. We expect something similar to that. When they did go to that box-and-one the first game, some of our other players stepped up and made some shots.”