Lady ’Canes make quick work of Hampton
New Castle (65) Vs. Hampton (44)
By RON PONIEWASZ JR.
WEXFORD — Speed carried the New Castle High girls basketball team to victory Saturday.
The Lady ’Canes forced 29 turnovers, eight in the pivotal third quarter, en route to a 65-44 WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinal-round playoff win over Hampton at North Allegheny High School. New Castle is now 6-4 at North Allegheny in playoff games this millennium.
Second-seeded New Castle stretched a 25-18 halftime buffer to 52-27 after three periods courtesy of its quickness. The Lady ’Canes stopped Hampton on five straight possessions, with each trip resulting in a turnover for the Lady Talbots.
“(Assistant coaches) Ronnie (DePorzio) and Maria (Joseph) kept telling me they’re tired,” said first-year New Castle coach Jason Rankin of Hampton. “We wanted to push the issue in the third quarter and we did.
“It wasn’t the turnovers so much that did them in. When we got the ball, we advanced it so quickly to get some easy baskets.”
Lady Talbots coach Mary Bukovac said the reason was simple for New Castle’s third-quarter success.
“I don’t know that they did a whole lot different in the third quarter,” she said. “We just turned it over too many times from their halfcourt pressure. You can’t do that and expect to get away with it, and they made us pay. We didn’t come out as ready as we needed to in the third quarter.”
The defending WPIAL Class AAA champion Lady ’Canes, ranked No. 2 in the WPIAL in Class AAA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, went on a 17-2 run in the first 3:46 of the second half for a 42-20 lead to put the game away.
“We want to come out hard all the time,” Rankin said. “We want to go all out and get after it while we have a chance.”
New Castle (19-3) advances to meet third-seeded Indiana (21-1) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Fox Chapel High School. The Lady Little Indians, ranked No. 3 by the Post-Gazette, moved on with a 60-41 verdict over Uniontown. Each team secured a berth in the PIAA Class AAA playoffs as well. Hampton, which won the WPIAL Class AAA crown in 2008, can only do so if the Lady ’Canes reach the WPIAL championship game.
“I’m New Castle’s No. 1 fan right now,” Bukovac said. “I think they’re capable of beating Indiana; I think they play in a stronger section than Indiana does. There’s a reason that Hopewell and New Castle are the top two seeds.”
The state playoff berth is the fifth straight for New Castle.
Both teams started slowly Saturday. Hampton took its only lead of the contest at 4-2 with 4:01 left in the opening quarter. LaShauna Brothers, who led all scorers with 20 points, tallied seven markers in the opening quarter as New Castle built a 13-9 advantage.
“Hampton wanted to slow it down, that’s their game,” Rankin said. “They have tremendous size and they were looking to try and make us work by extending the defense.”
Brothers was 8 of 14 from the field with 10 rebounds and five steals. She had 20 markers and 19 rebounds in the first matchup between the teams, a 67-52 Lady ’Canes win.
“She got off quickly because she knew she had a lot of success against them the first time,” Rankin said. “She’s not as big as they are but she’s tremendously athletic.
“She plays bigger than what she is and she has a lot of different ways to beat you.”
Said Brothers, “We knew we had to come out and play hard. We knew they are really big so we had to come out and box out and rebound. If I put my mind to it, I can play well against anybody.”
The Lady ’Canes took charge in the second quarter with a 6-0 run for a 22-14 margin with 2:31 to go in the half. Brothers notched four of the points during the brief spurt. A Lady ’Canes turnover that was turned into a Lady Talbots field goal ended the run and cut it to 22-16. New Castle settled for a 25-18 lead at the break.
Kaylynn Waters followed Brothers’ effort with 18 markers and three steals. She was 6 of 15 from the field. Waters had 20 points in the first encounter. She went to the hospital after the game and was diagnosed with a touch of pneuomonia and released, according to Rankin.
“Brothers hurt us inside, but I didn’t expect it to be quite as blatant. We didn’t have as much rotation on Waters as we needed, either,” Bukovac said. “We just gave up too many easy baskets.”
Christina Talbert chipped in with 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting, to go along with six rebounds and three steals.
The Lady ’Canes won the battle of the boards, 39-24.
“(University of Louisville men’s basketball coach) Rick Pitino made a statement years ago, fatigue makes cowards of us all,” Rankin said. “When you get tired, you’re tired. We outrebounded them, and that’s fatigue.
“In the first two-plus quarters, it looked like the Hampton team huddle in the lane. I think fatigue was a big part of that changing and that goes back to our style of play.”
Adriana Ferraro led the Lady Talbots with 18 points, 10 of which came in the second half.
“We needed more from her in the first half,” Bukovac said.
New Castle reserve Zynieckia Bester was carried off the court with 4:56 remaining in the game after an apparent right ankle injury. She didn’t return.
“I’m hoping it’s a lower ankle sprain, mid-ankle sprain,” Rankin said. “Sometimes, when it first happens, it hurts a whole lot for an hour or two and then it goes away. She wasn’t sure what happened on the play.”