Lady ’Canes drop heart-breaker to Hopewell
Hopewell (48) Vs. New Castle (47)
By RON PONIEWASZ JR.
ALIQUIPPA — Losing streaks aren’t typically associated with the New Castle High girls basketball program.
Hopewell altered that trend Monday night.
Amanda Trocci split a pair of foul shots with 3.3 seconds left and the Lady Vikings escaped with a 48-47 WPIAL Section 2-AAA win on their home floor. JaNia McPhatter’s turnaround jumper on the baseline bounced off the rim as time expired to send the Lady ’Canes to their second straight defeat.
It’s the first two-game losing streak for New Castle since the team lost to Upper St. Clair in the WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinals and to Peters Township in the opening round of the state playoffs in February 2008.
Monday night’s contest was the Lady ’Canes’ third in the last five days.
“They’re young girls, I don’t think they’ll get in a funk,” said first-year New Castle coach Jason Rankin. “The truth of the matter is we’ve played a monster schedule. There’s no excuses. We lost to some good teams and that’s what the season is for. We have a long way to go.
“I told the kids after the game nobody won a championship tonight and nobody lost one either. We may see them down the road in a playoff matchup. Who knows? I’m confident we will play better at home against them (Feb. 8) and make some plays.”
New Castle (3-1 section, 11-2 overall) is ranked No. 2 in the WPIAL in Class AAA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and No. 8 in the state. Hopewell (3-0, 13-0) is ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL in Class AAA and No. 3 in the state.
The Lady ’Canes trailed 47-43 with 1:32 left after a bucket by Paige Alviani. The teams traded turnovers until McPhatter sank a field goal in the lane to cut it to 47-45. Hopewell’s Samantha Fisher put up an errant shot on the other end and Christina Talbert snared the rebound for the Lady ’Canes.
“It’s going to be a battle when we play each other and we’re pretty evenly matched all the way across board,” said second-year Lady Vikings coach Jeff Homziak. “It’s going to come down to who comes up big down the stretch. Whether it be a key rebound, key steal or a key free throw.”
New Castle’s Kaylynn Waters buried a field goal and was fouled with 14 seconds left to knot the contest at 47. However, she missed the foul shot. The Lady Vikings wrestled the ball from LaShauna Brothers and Tocci was fouled on the rebound after Elise Farris missed a field goal in the lane with 3.3 seconds to play.
“We were out of position on the rebound,” Rankin said. “They had three or four people crowding LaShauna and they didn’t call it. Our players were kind of standing around when Hopewell did get position.
“Now Hopewell has a breakaway and we’re scrambling to get back. If (Waters) makes (the foul shot), our defense is set and they have to execute a play to win the game. In this case, they did what they had to do to get a free throw to win the game.”
Tocci missed the first attempt before drawing all net on the second for a 48-47 buffer. Talbert made a pass to McPhatter after the inbound but the game-winning shot attempt was just short.
“We were looking to get Christina or Kaylynn on either side flying up the sideline and have JaNia take off,” Rankin said. “Christina was smart enough to make a great pass. If JaNia would have caught and been able to turn around square she probably would have been able to make that shot. Being turned around the way she was probably caused her to miss.”
Waters and Brothers netted 19 points each for the Lady ’Canes. Brothers, who was 9 of 18 from the floor, tallied nine of her points in the first quarter. She added eight rebounds.
Rankin was pleased with Waters’ effort.
“Kaylynn made some big shots for us,” he said. “She had a chance to make a couple more, but she made a big shot at the end where she went all the way. She’s a heck of a player.
“She’s going to remember missing the free throw and we’re going to remember all of the good things she did.”
The Lady ’Canes netted just six points in the second quarter as Hopewell forged a 27-22 halftime advantage.
“When they can score, that gets them in their trapping, especially after a made bucket,” Homziak said. “They try to create a lot of havoc, especially in the first and third quarters. They like to come after you hard, that’s when they have their most energy.”
Farris netted a team-high 18 markers for Hopewell.
New Castle returns to action at 7:30 p.m. Thursday when it hosts Ellwood City Lincoln. The Lady Wolverines (0-3, 5-6) have lost 98 straight section games.