WEXFORD — The Mohawk High cheering section’s chant with one minute left in the game said it all.
The section loudly roared, ‘you still can’t beat us’, at the Carlynton fans across the gym.
The Lady Warriors’ Paige Julian dribbled out the last 10-plus seconds of the game to nail down a 61-44 PIAA Class 2A second-round win over the Lady Cougars at North Allegheny High School on Tuesday night.
It marked the second win for Mohawk (24-3) over Carlynton (16-10) this year, both coming in a span of two weeks. The Lady Warriors ousted the Lady Cougars in the WPIAL semifinals, 64-58.
“I don’t think either team made any changes,” Lady Warriors coach Mike O’Lare said. “We played the same style and they played the same style.
Mohawk advances to the state quarterfinals for the second time in the last three years. The Lady Warriors were edged by Bishop Canevin, 31-30, on a field goal with a second left.
“These girls were on that team,” O’Lare said of his upperclassmen. “They’re a completely different team at this point than it was two years ago. But they were there. That was a tough one.
“When you get this deep in the playoffs, on this side anyway, it’s about how good are you?”
Mohawk will meet Cambria Heights (25-3), a 53-45 winner over Trinity, in the state’s Elite Eight on Friday at a time and site to be determined.
“It’s going to be about talent and skill,” O’Lare said. “How good we are. Do we make shots? Do we take care of the ball? I like my group.”
The Lady Warriors never trailed and the game was never tied. Hannah McDanel helped get Mohawk going, scoring eight of her game-high 21 points in the first quarter.
“I thought that I was definitely hitting my shots more than I have been and we moved the ball very well on offense,” McDanel said. “We just knew we had to come out stronger because we knew they were going to come out strong and want to beat us. We wanted it more than them.”
The Lady Warriors led 13-6 before Carlynton cut it to 13-12 with 1:31 to go in the period. Mohawk held a 15-12 advantage after the first quarter.
“We talked the last couple of days that we knew she was due for a big game,” O’Lare said of McDanel. “Not that she’s played bad. But she hasn’t got the amount of shots that she got the first three months in the last two weeks.”
McDanel continued her assault on the basket in the second quarter, tallying five more markers to push the Lady Warriors’ lead to 31-21 at the break.
“She knocked down some big shots, pretty much consistently throughout it seemed like. But really in that second quarter,” O’Lare said of McDanel. “I’m happy for her. The girls came in to timeouts saying get it to Hannah. Get it to Hannah.”
And they did.
“Hannah was hitting a lot of her shots so that helped a lot,” Julian said. “We moved the ball really well tonight.”
Defense helped propel the Lady Warriors to the 10-point halftime buffer. The Lady Cougars went nearly seven minutes without a point. Haley Williams ended the drought on a bucket with 2:45 to go in the opening half and Mohawk holding a 27-17 lead.
Mohawk was active defensively, forcing 17 turnovers, six in each of the first two quarters.
“We know we have good defense and we do get a lot of steals,” McDanel said. “That helps us a lot. We did really good on defense tonight.”
Said Julian, “We just kept the press up and they didn’t really like that.”
The Lady Warriors had their own trouble holding on to the ball in the first half, though. Mohawk turned it over four times in the first quarter and three more in the second.
“I felt like we were turning the ball over a lot early,” O’Lare said. “We were throwing passes that are not passes we practice. We were throwing to guys on the run that weren’t going to the rim and we don’t practice that.
“They would get a rebound, look up and see a guy running and we’d try to throw that pass. It just seemed like we threw four or five away. Some of them we caught and we did some uncharacteristic shots that we don’t practice either.”
The defense maintained its stellar play in the second half, while the offense took better care off the ball. The Lady Warriors turned it over three times in the period and just once in the fourth.
Mohawk pushed its lead to as much as 16 in the third quarter twice — 40-24 and 42-26. The Lady Warriors carried a 44-32 lead into the fourth quarter.
Julian scored eight of her 18 points in the fourth quarter as Mohawk put the game on ice. She pulled down a game-high nine rebounds as well.
“I just kept driving (to the basket),” Julian said.
Nadia Lape, Mohawk’s leading scorer at 18.7 points a game, was held to just three points, all on free throws.
“Nadia is battling the flu,” O’Lare said. “What you saw out there was her just gutting through it. Trying to make the right pass. Their length around the top of their zone is a little bit hard for her to penetrate.”
Karly McCutcheon contributed 12 points and eight rebounds. Jordan Radzmynski added seven markers and seven boards.
“Nadia didn’t score as much, but Paige stepped in,” O’Lare said. “Jordan stepped in with seven points. Just her getting seven on the board is picking up some of those numbers for Nadia.”
McCutcheon put up numbers on both ends of the floor in the fourth period as the Lady Warriors closed it out.
“She made a big basket at the rim with a couple of minutes to go,” O’Lare said. “I got wound up at one point but she told me, coach, we’re good, we got this. She’s not only good with her teammates, she’s telling me to relax. She brings all of that to the table.”
The Lady Warriors also had to contend with foul trouble. McCutcheon, McDanel and Lape all finished the game with four fouls. McDanel picked up her fourth the earliest out of the trio, with 1:39 left in the third and Lape got her fourth with 6:52 to go in the game.
“It was hard but you have to rely on other players,” McDanel said of the team’s foul trouble. “They know how many fouls they have and if someone gets past you, they have to step up and help.”
Kendall Kline collected a team-high 14 points to lead Carlynton.