Nothing comes easy in ‘Canes’ win over Ellwood
New Castle (70) Vs. Ellwood City (66)
By RON PONIEWASZ JR.
It may be a little too early to be talking playoff elimination for most boys basketball teams.
Not if you’re New Castle or Ellwood City Lincoln.
Darrian Rice sank a pair of foul shots with 5.4 seconds left to seal a 70-66 WPIAL Section 2-AAA win for the Red Hurricane last night at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House.
“You could call it an elimination game, but we never say that to the kids,” New Castle coach Mark Stanley said. “It makes it tough if you lose this one; it was a must win and a big game for us.
“We got this one tonight and we were lucky. We’ve had some unlucky ones. I guess the basketball gods were smiling on us.”
The win propels the ’Canes (2-4 section, 3-11 overall) into sole possession of fifth place in the section standings. Two of New Castle’s section losses came by two points. The top four teams advance to the WPIAL playoffs.
“I believe we can run the table,” Stanley said. “I might sound crazy, but we’ve played everybody and we’ve been right there with everybody. Why can’t we?”
Ellwood City (1-5, 3-10) is in sixth place, one game ahead of Beaver (0-6, 2-12). The Wolverines haven’t defeated New Castle since a 53-49 verdict on Jan. 15, 1992 on their home floor. In fact, Ellwood City’s last win at New Castle dates back past 1970.
“This was certainly close to an elimination game,” Ellwood City coach Jason Bumblis said. “By no means are we eliminated.
“We don’t think there is a team on our schedule in our section that we can’t beat.”
New Castle helped Ellwood City hang around late in the game. The ’Canes were 12 of 21 from the foul line in the fourth quarter, including seven consecutive misses in a 35-second span.
“You hope kids learn a lesson from that,” Stanley said. “The game should have been over but it wasn’t. Their kids are coming down and scoring and staying in it and fouling us on the other end.
“We feel much better because we won and we’ve been shooting them well lately. In pressure situations you have to make them.”
Brandon Domenick made the first of two foul shots with 53.7 seconds left to put New Castle up 68-64. Matt Germanoski threw the ball away on the Wolverines’ next possession and the ’Canes’ Corey Eggleston missed a pair of foul shots on the other end. Rice snared the critical rebound for New Castle and he missed a pair of foul shots with 24.9 seconds remaining.
Germanoski knocked down two freebies with 19.5 to go to cut the deficit to 68-66. The ’Canes’ struggles continued at the line when Jajuan Jay missed two foul shots with 18.2 seconds left and Ellwood City’s Ryan Horgan secured the rebound. Germanoski missed a game-tying layup with 6.6 seconds to play, setting up Rice who drained the game-clinching free throws.
The ’Canes’ Marcus Carter, a sophomore, led all scorers with a career-high 21 points. Carter netted 10 of his points in the fourth quarter, sinking all six of his fourth-quarter free-throws. He was 7 of 8 from the stripe overall.
“It does frustrate you when you see the missed free throws,” Carter said. “You have to make them in a tight situation. This was a big win and we want to continue to take steps forward.
“I acknowledge my teammates for getting me the ball. Without them passing me the ball I wouldn’t have put up the points I did.”
New Castle built a 35-25 halftime bulge but Ellwood City kept battling. The Wolverines opened the second half on a 13-2 run to take a 38-37 lead with 4:02 left in the third period.
“If I knew what triggered these kids, we wouldn’t be 3-10,” Bumblis said. “We just finally decided to start playing hard. It’s funny how when you make a team work for everything it changes the game.”
Said Stanley, “I told the guys at halftime we can go up 20 or let them back in it. To their credit they got right back into the game. Ellwood just plays hard, they always do.”
Eggleston followed Carter’s effort with 18 points, including eight in the first quarter. Jay was next with 13 markers and Rice added 11.
“Corey got out early for us,” Stanley said. “They couldn’t stay in front of him so he was able to get to the basket and get some looks.”
New Castle’s Marquale May, a senior, was suspended for the game for disciplinary reasons. Stanley expects him to be back in the lineup Friday.
Horgan paced the Wolverines with 17 points, while Richard McKinney chipped in with 13. Germanoski contributed 12 and Gino Ceriani tossed in 10.
Cody Mittica, Ellwood City’s third leading scorer at eight points a game, fouled out with 5:12 left in the contest. Mittica tallied eight markers.
“That was a crucial loss,” Bumblis said. “He was playing so well, being physical and asserting himself and that was a key.”
New Castle returns to action at 7:30 p.m. Friday when it hosts Hopewell in a section matchup. The Vikings (4-1, 9-5) won the first meeting on their home floor, 53-37. The ’Canes trailed by just four points after three quarters.
“We’re going to come after them,” Stanley said. “They’re a big team. If we can get that one, watch out.”
Ellwood City will host Freedom at 7:30 p.m. Friday in nonsection action.