Fourth quarter powers Moon past New Castle
New Castle (49) Vs. Moon (65)
By RON PONIEWASZ JR.
WEXFORD — The faces on the New Castle High boys basketball team’s bench told the story.
Heads were down and stunned expressions were all over the players’ faces as they had to come to grips with losing for the first time in 15 games.
The timing couldn’t have been much worse, as Moon outscored the Red Hurricane 27-2 in the final 6:40 to claim a 65-49 verdict in the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals at North Allegheny High.
“Things started snowballing and Moon picked up the pace,” ’Canes coach Mark Stanley said. “The play got more physical and they got every loose ball and we didn’t match energy.”
The Tigers (15-9) advance to the semifinals against Hampton, a 52-49 winner over Greensburg Salem, at a time, date and site to be determined. Moon also clinched a berth in the state playoffs.
“That’s a big-time close right there,” said Tigers coach Jeff Ackerman of the final quarter. “We wanted to get the lead because we felt we had more left down the stretch.”
Second-seeded New Castle (18-6), ranked No. 3 in WPIAL Class AAA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, had its 14-game win streak snapped. The ’Canes can clinch a state playoff appearance if the Tigers top the Talbots in the semifinals. If former Westminster College standout Joe Lafko’s Hampton charges prevail, New Castle’s season is over.
“It’s been a fun year, I just hope it continues,” Stanley said. “We always talk about enjoying the journey and it’s been a fun ride. We won’t hang our hat on just this game.”
New Castle led 45-34 with 1:28 to play in the third quarter and appeared to be in control. The Tigers got the final basket of the stanza on a 3-pointer by Brett Hoffman to trail 45-37.
“For three quarters, we were fine,” Stanley said. “We were sharing the ball, but we got away from that in the fourth quarter.”
Tyrone Steals sank a basket on a drive through the lane for a 47-38 advantage. From there, Moon’s defense took charge.
“I was just trying to penetrate, looking for the open lane,” Steals said. “If it was there, I was taking it the whole way.”
Steals finished with a game-high 26 points, three off his season high. Rodney Parchman, who missed the first-round playoff win over Belle Vernon due to of disciplinary reasons, came off the bench to record 11 markers.
“Ty kept us in it,” Stanley said. “When he’s going, he’s fun to watch. Offensively, he’s as good as anyone I’ve coached; he’s explosive.”
Up 47-40, the ’Canes worked about 45 seconds off the clock and had the Tigers on the run. Freshman Corey Eggleston spotted up and launched a 3-pointer from the corner with 5:26 to play that was just off and Moon corralled the rebound.
“That shot came off penetration,” Stanley said. “He had his feet set; we’ve taken worse 3s. If it goes in, maybe that gives us energy.
“I don’t think it was a horrible shot.”
Jason Jacobs buried a 3-pointer on the Tigers’ next possession and Nick Klein was whistled for an intentional foul on Jacobs on the winners’ next trip down the floor. Jacobs sank both foul shots and Aaron Johnson hit a bucket in the lane on the same possession to tie the contest at 47.
“I thought the intentional foul was huge,” Ackerman said. “That gave us quite a boost.”
Steals closed the scoring for New Castle on a runner with 3:53 to play. After a Johnson field goal tied it at 49, Angelo Aletto gave the Tigers the lead for good at 51-49 with 3:11 remaining.
The ’Canes committed four turnovers down the stretch and Moon capitalized.
New Castle started slow, trailing 16-7 late in the first quarter before rallying. The ’Canes took their first lead at 22-21 when Steals spun in the lane and converted on a drive to the bucket with 3:54 to go in the half.
The ’Canes settled for a 30-28 halftime advantage.
Jacobs finished with 21 points to lead the Tigers.