New Castle News

Sports

February 13, 2013

WPIAL Girls Playoffs: Mohawk gets bye, while Neshannock, Union set to go

GREEN TREE — The Mohawk High girls basketball team received some good news last night  — it won’t be playing.

The Lady Warriors were one of three girls county teams to receive their first-round playoff matchup at the WPIAL playoff pairings meeting at the DoubleTree Hotel in Green Tree.

Mohawk earned a bye after a regular season in which they were crowned Section 2-AA champions for the first time since 2001.

Neshannock and Union also advanced to the playoffs, with the Lady Lancers earning a Class AA bid and the Lady Scots a Class A spot.  

“It gets you to the next round without having to win. That’s a positive. From there, I don’t know how much of an advantage it does or doesn’t have,” Lady Warriors coach Mike O’Lare said of the bye. “We’re still going to play this week and prepare as if we were playing.”

The game off also gives the Mohawk coach a chance to scout his team’s potential first-round opponent in person, either Beaver or Chartiers-Houston, when they play at 6:30 p.m. Friday at West Allegheny High School. The seventh-seeded Lady Warriors (16-6) are no strangers to Beaver (16-4), having upended former Neshannock girls coach Greg Huston’s Lady Bobcats 46-40 just two days ago.

“I don’t think it can be a bad thing knowing you beat them,” O’Lare said. “I don’t think anybody is going to take anybody lightly right now. I don’t think we’ll go in with false confidence because it’s lose or go home at this point. That’s the mindset we have.

“I don’t know much about them (Chartiers-Houston) yet, but we’ll find out when we go watch them play. We’ll be there to scout that one for sure. That’s probably the real advantage you do have with the bye — going to see them in person before you have to play.”

Mohawk, which includes a group of eight seniors, already accomplished its first goal this season, winning the section title, but expectations don’t stop there.

“It’s great to win the section, but I think this time we want to go somewhere with this. We don’t just want to be happy we are in,” O’Lare said. “I think we’re over that feeling. It’s great to win the league this year, but now we want to move on in this tournament.”

YOUTHFUL EXPERIENCE

Neshannock brings youth to its first playoff game in two seasons.

The Lady Lancers (11-11) clash with West Shamokin (12-10) in a preliminary round matchup at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Highlands High School. With a win, Neshannock will earn the 15th seed in Class AA and do battle with second-seeded Bishop Canevin on Tuesday.

The game will be a new experience for most of the Lady Lancers, as the team fielded a regular-season starting lineup which included three sophomores, a junior and just one senior.

“It’s always a good experience. I think they’ll benefit in the long run,” Neshannock coach Luann Grybowski said. “Hopefully, we’ll not be too nervous or too excited and just play within our means and have a good showing.”

Having spent more than 30 years in the coaching ranks, including a successful stint as the New Castle High girls basketball coach, Grybowski has broken down the postseason tournament to a simple formula.

“You take it one game at a time,” she said. “You come up with a gameplan to go through the first one, and take it one game at a time after that. I’ve been in a lot of different positions over the year. I’ve won it all from a 10 seed. I’ve also unexpectedly lost from the two seed.  I’ve virtually been about everywhere you can be on the bracket, you just take it one game at a time. It’ll be an invaluable experience for the team.”

The Lady Lancers are coming off a week with mixed results, having finished 2-2 in a four-game stretch. However, Grybowski is hoping steady improvements over the season will pay dividends.

“I would have told you our momentum was good before Saturday’s game (a one-point loss to Wilmington),” she said. “We played four games in six days, which is tough, but we’ve been pretty consistent the second half of the year. I think we are steadily getting better. That’s where you want to be come playoff time.”

NEW COMBATANTS

Union (11-10) will be making its first playoff appearance under four seasons with coach Brian Fadden when it faces off against Winchester Thurston (12-8) on Feb. 20 at a time and site to be determined. Fadden’s brother, Rob, also will make an appearance in the postseason as the Mohawk boys coach.

“We’re very excited for the kids,” Fadden said.  “I think anytime you make the playoffs it’s just an opportunity, and we’re exciting to be a part of that.”

The ninth-seeded Lady Scots struggled down the stretch, losing six of seven games, but that didn’t perturb Fadden about his team’s chances.

“We didn’t finish the season exactly the way we wanted to, but in several of those games, we played well and just ended up on the short end of the stick. Hopefully, we can carry that momentum forward.

 “I think we got a nice seed. To be honest, this is about where I thought we’d be about a month ago. I’m happy with our seed. We’re pleased with where we are.”

When Union takes the court against the Lady Bears, the team will be with a relatively healthy roster.

“Kaylee (Lemmon) has a torn ACL. That’s hit and miss when she can play,” Fadden said. “We have a couple others who are injured, but they should be ready in time.”

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