'Canes drop section opener to Hopewell
Hopewell (53) Vs. New Castle (37)
By JOE SAGER
HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP — After last night, the New Castle High boys basketball team knows what it must do to be a contender.
The Red Hurricane visited Hopewell, picked by many to capture the WPIAL Section 2-AAA championship, and stayed with the Vikings through three quarters before fizzling out in a 53-37 loss.
New Castle (0-1 section, 1-3 overall) held a 21-17 halftime edge and trailed, 34-30, at the end of three quarters. However, the ’Canes’ shooters went sub-zero and Hopewell (1-0, 3-1) pulled away for the triumph to open section play.
“They are as good as anybody in our section. Section play is different and I am glad we opened on the road here,” New Castle coach Mark Stanley said. “We have to take care of business on our home floor now. We’re just going to keep getting better and plug away. We’ve gotten better since the last game, which I am happy about.”
Stanley’s young troops seemed to catch the veteran Vikings by surprise early in the contest. New Castle went on an 11-4 spree to start the game. However, Hopewell trimmed the deficit to 14-10 at the buzzer. The ’Canes’ four-point edge remained in place at halftime, too.
Vikings coach Ron Rowan instructed his troops to play a 2-3 zone defense in the second half and it worked well. New Castle’s shooters struggled in the frame and managed only three field goals — two Jajuan Jay 3-pointers and a Marquale May triple from downtown.
“Going zone was a great adjustment for them,” Stanley said. “We have to get used to it because that’s what teams will do to us. They did it to us last year, but we were able to shoot our way out of it.”
Rowan made the move to take advantage of his team’s distinct height advantage. Hopewell’s smallest starter is listed at 6-feet-1. The four others are 6-4. New Castle’s tallest starter — Jay — is listed at 6-1. The ’Canes had little chance of collecting any caroms.
“They are so small. It’s almost like playing against five guards out there,” Rowan said. “We’re a bigger type of team and I didn’t want to give them any advantage by going man to man. I thought we could do it and they only scored 21 on us in the first half. But, the momentum quickly switched to us and we started attacking the basket and they started shooting 3s and made only a few.
“We’re still trying to find ourselves. We have a tall team and very versatile kids,” he continued. “It’s going to take a little bit of time to get everything where we need it to be. We came together pretty well in the second half.”
Faced with the zone, New Castle was unable to string together a series of 3-pointers that would have forced the Vikings to abandon that defense.
“It’s one look and that’s it. I thought we got some good looks, but when you don’t knock them down, they are going to stay in the zone,” Stanley said. “They stopped penetration, which is one of our stronger points. We’re small, so we don’t really have any power game to get to some power looks inside. Everything we get is going to be a kickout from inside to outside. Everybody knows that, to beat a zone, you have to hit shots. If you don’t hit shots, it’s going to be a long night.”
The ’Canes didn’t help themselves in the fourth quarter as they went 6:37 without a field goal. In the meantime, the hosts turned a slim 34-30 advantage into a commanding 49-35 buffer.
“The effort was there. I don’t have any complaints about that. That is a very good basketball team,” Stanley said. “I thought we moved the ball well, at times. When you’re hitting shots and you’re right there, your energy level picks up naturally. When you’re missing shots, the defense lags a little bit. We went into that lull and it carried over from the offensive end back to the defensive end.
“They are athletic and strong. They started getting some gaps,” he continued. “They are going to get some looks and, when they did miss some shots, they were getting rebounds and putting them back. With our zone, they shouldn’t get to the hoop like that. We have to shore it up on the backline and stop the penetration and make them shoot jump shots. We did it well in the first half. They attacked, got on a roll and it snowballed.”
Dayne Smith led all scorers with 16 points — all of which came in the second half. Mark Ross added 11, while Kevin Welsh had 10.
Jay paced New Castle with 12 points on four triplicates. Corey Eggleston and May both had nine markers.
The ’Canes return to action Monday at home against Ambridge in another section tilt.