By Joe Sager
New Castle News
Mohawk may not have won a section title, but the Lady Warriors claimed their second WPIAL Class 3A championship.
None of the teams in the Section 1 got to play all 12 games because of COVID-19 issues, so that left Mohawk in third place at 7-3. North Catholic (9-0) won the section, while Laurel (9-2) was second.
Mohawk’s Paige Julian was named the section’s MVP, while Nadia Lape was named to the first team, along with Laurel’s Regan Atkins. Mohawk’s Mike O’Lare was named the section’s coach of the year.
MOHAWK GETS CLOSURE
Mohawk got the chance to defend its WPIAL title when it upended North Catholic, 54-48, in the championship game. Last year, the Lady Warriors saw their postseason cut short after in the quarterfinals, when COVID-19 precautions delayed and then cancelled the rest of the winter sports season.
This year, they advanced to the program’s first PIAA championship game. Philadelphia West Catholic upended Mohawk, 67-56, for the state title.
Julian, a senior, averaged 20.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. A West Liberty recruit, she finished with 1,156 career points. Lape, a senior, averaged 13.6 points per game. A United States Military Academy track and field recruit, she finished her career with 1,202 points.
“Paige is just an awesome player. She can score and do most things other kids can’t with the basketball,” O’Lare said. “Nadia brings a winning mentality to the program and team. She wins everything she does. She is just as important as anybody; her success is everywhere. That really fueled our success.
“We had the success we did because all the girls could do things each other couldn’t,” he continued. “I don’t think, until down the road, they will realize what they’ve done for our school and program and girls basketball in the county — to elevate it to that level.”
The Lady Warriors, who finished 19-5 this season, went 43-8 the past two years.
“Paige and Nadia both had great careers and really good senior years. More than anything individually, they, collectively as a group, cemented themselves in the history books here having the back-to-back best years in our program’s history,” O’Lare said. “That rivals any girls team in the county for what they have been able to do here.”
O’Lare wrapped up his 15th season as head coach. He has a 229-127 record.
“The coach of the year is a player’s award, really. When you have good teams, you get picked for that. We were blessed the last two years to have really good players,” O’Lare said. “Not only that, but you need great assistants and you need everything to come together. My assistants, Greg Scott, Brian Turk and Aliya Gage – the time they put in and the roles they have within the program are so important. So, it’s really a program award. I am was smart enough to find the best people we could get to help these girls and lucky enough that they wanted to do it.”
ATKINS LEADS LAUREL
A young Laurel team fared well after playing for the WPIAL Class 2A title in 2020. The Lady Spartans finished 18-3 and their only losses came to North Catholic (twice) and Mohawk.
“We had a great year playing in arguably one of the toughest section in the state,” Laurel coach Matt Stebbins said. “I am very happy for Mohawk to come back and knock North Catholic off in the WPIAL championship game.”
Atkins, a sophomore guard, averaged 14.3 points per game for the Lady Spartans.
“Regan had a phenomenal year. To get first team in the section we are in is a tough feat. There are a lot of great players in the section. Just to be in that same category as those other players is definitely a remarkable feat for her,” he said. “She was a first-teamer last year in our 2A section, so it’s nice to see her get that honor again. She gets it done on both ends of the floor offensively and defensively. All around, she is a very good player. She’s continuing to evolve her game each year.”
Laurel’s Reese Bintrim earned second-team honors, while Danielle Pontius and Lucia Lombardo were honorable mention.
“To get four girls included in the section honors is very good, considering all the tough teams and good players,” Stebbins said. “We return our whole roster next year, so we are looking to continue building upon what we did this year.”
Section 1-3A All-Stars
Paige Julian (Mohawk), Sr.; Decia Lewandowski (North Catholic); Regan Atkins (Laurel), Soph.; Alayna Rocco (North Catholic), Fr.; Nadia Lape (Mohawk), Sr.
Kyla Servick (Ellwood City), Jr.; Hannah McDanel (Mohawk), Sr.; Ava Walker (North Catholic), Fr.; Reese Bintrim (Laurel), Soph.; Macyla Collins (Beaver Falls), Sr.
Danielle Pontius (Laurel), Soph.; Lucia Lombardo (Laurel), Jr.; Tara Lucot (North Catholic), Sr.; Tori Drevna (North Catholic), Soph.
Player of Year: Paige Julian (Mohawk), Sr.
Coach of the Year: Mike O’Lare (Mohawk)