CHARLEROI – Charleroi senior guard Mia Woytovich stepped to the free-throw line at the beginning of the fourth quarter with the Cougars leading 31-27.
Woytovich, a four-year starter for Charleroi, was just two points shy of 1,000 for her career. She dribbled twice and sank the first shot. The crowd grew louder at the Charleroi High School gym as she hoisted the basketball up for her second try.
The ball left her hands and clanked off the rim to leave her one point away from the milestone. It did not take long for Woytovich to avenge the miss. Less than one minute later, she dribbled down the court and took a three-point shot three feet behind the line. The ball went through the basket, Woytovich lept in the air and was overcome with emotion.
The three was the landmark of her big second half for the Cougars. Woytovich scored 21 second-half points to lead Charleroi to a 44-33 win over Section 5-AA rival Wash High.
“I knew I was two points away when I stepped to the free-throw line, but I was trying not to think about it,” Woytovich said. “As soon as I shot that three, I knew it was going in. It was such an amazing feeling.”
Woytovich, who finished with 27 points against the Prexies, became Charleroi’s seventh 1,000-point scorer in the program’s history and the first since Aly Lee in 2009. The Cougars (6-2, 15-3) badly needed their senior leader to have a strong second half after Charleroi shot just 4-for-27 from the field in the first 16 minutes.
The Cougars trailed 25-23 when Woytovich began her hot streak. The 5-9 senior hit a three-pointer to give Charleroi the lead and followed the clutch shot up with a driving layup just one minute later. The Cougars finished the third quarter on a 10-4 run to take a four-point lead into the final frame.
Woytovich’s milestone three-pointer with 6:47 remaining in the fourth quarter gave Charleroi a six-point lead, but the Prexies (6-2, 9-5) made shots on back-to-back possessions to draw to within three. Woytovich responded with another three on the ensuing possession and followed it with a putback off an offensive rebound to give the Cougars a lead they would not surrender.
Junior Taylor Ellis led the Prexies with nine points, and Charleroi senior Carina Gottheld chipped in six for the Cougars.
“This is a tough place to come down to play at,” Wash High coach Mike Maltony said. “It’s hard to fathom that we could not get a one-and-one situation in the second half and that made the difference. (Mia) is a good player and there’s no doubt about that. We knew they would have a ton of energy and emotion with her so close to 1,000.”
That energy translated into 31 points in the second half for Charleroi. The Cougars drew even with Wash High in the section standings. The Cougars have won seven-straight games with Woytovich leading the way.
The senior insisted that she did not think about the point total as the teams took pregame warmups. While she struggled in the game’s opening minutes, Woytovich saved her best for when the Cougars needed it the most.
“I was extremely nervous before the game, but I wasn’t thinking about the points,” Woytovich said. “This has been a long journey since my freshman year and I’m glad I got to 1,000. I owe it all to my teammates because I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.”
Charleroi and Wash High trail section-leader McGuffey (7-0, 13-3) by two games in the loss column with each team having a game remaining against the Highlanders in the final weeks of the season.
When asked about Woytovich’s clutch performance in a key section game, Charleroi head coach Joe Grodz said he was not surprised. The senior has not missed a start in four years and has consistently been one of the Cougars’ hardest-working offensive threats during that time.
“She played one heck of a game,” Grodz said. “She plays hard every night, she’s a leader and she’s been this way since her freshman year. I’m happy for her, I’m proud of her and I’m proud of this entire team. She could not have done it without them and it’s because this group always works hard.”