’Canes notch first playoff win since 2005
New Castle (72) Vs. Belle Vernon (54)
By RON PONIEWASZ JR.
AMBRIDGE — The streak continues for the New Castle High boys basketball team.
Tyrone Steals tossed in 21 points to lead the Red Hurricane to a 72-54 win over Belle Vernon last night at Ambridge High School in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.
It was New Castle’s 14th straight win and its first in the postseason since 2005.
“Ty helped get us off the mark again,” ’Canes coach Mark Stanley said. “We don’t even talk about the streak because you’re only as good as your next game.”
Next up for second-seeded New Castle (18-5), ranked No. 3 in the WPIAL in Class AAA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is Moon (14-9) in the quarterfinals Friday at a time and site to be determined by the WPIAL. The winner qualifies for the PIAA playoffs, while the loser can still secure a berth if the victorious team advances to the WPIAL championship game.
Steals buried two 3-pointers early in the first quarter before picking up two quick fouls. He sat a large portion of the opening half.
“Ty gathered himself nicely after those fouls,” Stanley said. “He was frustrated, but guys picked it up for him.”
Said Steals, “We were making passes and looking for the open shot. I was able to get open and knock them down. The bench stepped up and kept me fired up for the second half.”
Belle Vernon, which bowed out at 15-8, went scoreless for 3:57 of the first quarter. The ’Canes took advantage of it, building a 16-6 lead.
“We didn’t give them a lot of penetration,” Stanley said. “I felt we made them take some tough shots and we were able to get the rebounds and not allow any putbacks.”
Trailing 16-10 after one, the Leopards got with 16-14 before the ’Canes closed the half on a 19-9 run for a 35-23 halftime advantage.
“When we get a lead we seem to start settling and we forget what got us that lead,” Stanley said. “We weren’t moving the basketball and we were settling for 3s; once we got our rhythm back we were fine.”
New Castle’s bench excelled, scoring 20 of the 35 first-half points and 29 for the contest.
“That’s a fantastic effort,” Stanley said. “(Mike) Cox and Corey (Eggleston) did a great job, Michael (Bongivengo) gave us energy; we’re deep and it showed tonight.”
Said Eggleston, “Our bench really came through. Cox always steps up and Bongivengo steps up with his big contributions. We all do our job.”
New Castle outscored Belle Vernon 24-15 for a 59-38 lead after three and coasted in the final frame. The largest lead was 72-42 with 3:34 remaining.
Fourteen players participated in the rout for New Castle and seven of them scored.
Steals was 8 of 15 from the floor to go with seven rebounds. Cox tallied 14 markers on 5-of-10 shooting with three assists. Eggleston, a freshman, contributed 13 markers and a game-high eight rebounds.
“I treated this like a regular season game; I played my game like I always do,” Eggleston said. “It’s a total team effort and it’s all about getting the win.”
Tonio Fulena chipped in with 10 points, six rebounds, three steals and three assists.
Rodney Parchman, who is a starter for New Castle, was held out of the game for missing practice Monday. Parchman is averaging 8.1 points a contest.
“Rodney is still part of our family,” Stanley said. “We took action and we’ll talk more with him.”
Josh Pohlot led the Leopards with 17 markers, while Jake Cramer added 13.