Section rivals to collide again as Beaver, Mohawk vie for Class 3A girls crown

Friday, February 28, 2020 | 3:48 PM

Coaches can spend hours watching videos on opponents, trying to find an edge or some tendencies to exploit.

For Beaver and Mohawk’s coaching staffs, they don’t have to spend too much time staring at screens preparing for Saturday’s WPIAL Class 3A championship game. The Section 1 rivals clash at 11 a.m. at the Petersen Events Center for district gold.

“Last year in the playoffs, it was hardcore scouting and trying to find film and stuff. It was really difficult. It’s been easier this year,” Beaver coach Greg Huston said. “We didn’t even film the (Mohawk semifinal) game because we know exactly what they do, and they know exactly what we do, too. We’re very familiar with them. (Mohawk coach Mike O’Lare) and I came in the same year, so to meet him in the WPIAL championship game is pretty cool. We’re looking forward to that.”

The teams split their two section games and shared the section title. The top-seeded Bobcats (21-3) and second-seeded Warriors (21-3) remained on a collision course throughout the postseason.

“That just shows the strength of our section. Now, do you really want to play them? I don’t know,” O’Lare said. “With three teams left in the semifinals, it shows how tough our section is in the entire WPIAL.”

The game’s outcome will be historic for one program. Beaver is making its second WPIAL title game appearance. It fell to North Catholic in the Class 4A championship game two years ago when Tess Myers sunk the Bobcats with a last-second shot.

“We were up by 19 at halftime in that game,” Beaver junior Emma Pavelek said. “I think I would have rather lost that game by more than just a buzzer beater. I know the girls who played in that game still have that bad taste in their mouths. I am not any less nervous than I was freshman year. It’ll be a good battle.”

Mohawk is in the championship game for the first time. The Warriors hope to hang their own title banner on their gym wall to go along with the one commemorating the 1970 boys WPIAL championship.

“We’ve been talking about it all year,” O’Lare said. “For any school, getting there for the first time is exciting. With the quick turnaround, I guess the blessing is that you know your opponents inside and out. The negative is that they know you inside and out.”

Mohawk won the first meeting, 55-44, at home Jan. 6. Beaver took the second one, 54-44, at home on Jan. 30. Both sides expect another strong test.

“We thought this was going to happen,” Mohawk’s Paige Julian said. “We have one of the toughest sections, and we just assumed it’d be one of us playing the other for the championship.”

At 65.0 points per game, the Warriors feature one of the WPIAL’s top offenses. They reached at least 70 points in three of their last four games leading up to a 64-58 semifinal win over Carlynton. Nadia Lape (19.1) and Karly McCutcheon (18.1) are the team’s top scorers, but Julian racked up 33 points in the semifinal.

“I think having balance makes teams frustrated. They don’t know how to guard us,” McCutcheon said. “If they pick one person out, we have four other people who can go after them. We’re so unselfish; we’re confident the other girl can make the shot.”

Conversely, Beaver features the WPIAL’s stingiest defense (29.5). The 37 points allowed to Carlynton were the most since the Bobcats’ last meeting with Mohawk almost a month ago.

“It’s going to be very exciting, especially because we split. It wasn’t like we both beat each other by a little bit; it was by a lot,” Beaver’s Payton List said. “It’s going to be a really good game, and it’ll be fun. We just have to stop their shooters outside and we have to shoot better.”

Both teams advance to the PIAA tournament, which begins March 6. The winner gets the District 6 No. 4 seed, while the losing squad draws the D-10 second seed.

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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