Lady 'Canes defeat Hopewell
New Castle (69) Vs. Hopewell (58)
ALIQUIPPA — New Castle High girls basketball coach Jason Rankin admits to being a stats guy.
He knew the numbers favored the Lady ’Canes.
That’s why Rankin didn’t panic when Hopewell took a 36-28 lead into the locker room at halftime of last night’s WPIAL Section 2-AAA contest on the Lady Vikings’ home floor. Hopewell had matched and sometimes bettered New Castle’s intensity in taking the eight-point lead.
Doing that for 16 minutes is one thing. Keeping that intensity for 32 minutes is another.
“The one thing I told (the players) in the locker room was ‘Let’s see if they are able to continue at this pace,’” Rankin said.
Hopewell could not.
New Castle, ranked No. 2 in the WPIAL in Class AAA, outscored the Lady Vikings, 23-3, in the third quarter en route to a 69-58 victory. The win upped the Lady ’Canes’ mark to 8-1 in the section and 14-3 overall.
New Castle scored the first nine points of the third quarter to take a 37-36 lead before Madalena Rowan made a layup off a rebound for Hopewell (5-5, 9-8). The Lady ’Canes then ran off 12 consecutive points and took a 51-38 advantage into the final quarter.
“I’m a stats guy. We are averaging 66 points a game and no other team in triple-A, outside of maybe Indiana and Blackhawk, is close to that. So, we dare you to score 60-some points against us,” Rankin said. “Hopewell is still young and I think they wanted it to be a little lower scoring.”
Two things that aided New Castle in the big third quarter were the return of LaShauna Brothers, who picked up her third foul at 1:40 of the first period and sat on the bench the rest of the first half, and the fact the Lady ’Canes just played harder than Hopewell.
“That’s a seasoned bunch of kids over there,” Hopewell coach Jeff Homziak said of New Castle. “They played hard for 32 minutes, we didn’t. I knew they were going to make a run, it was just a matter of when.”
Brothers scored 12 of her 19 points in the third quarter. Ja’Nia McPhatter paced the Lady ’Canes with 24 points and Christina Talbert chipped in with 13.
To its credit, Hopewell didn’t fold after New Castle’s third-quarter barrage. The Lady Vikings trimmed New Castle’s lead to 58-50 with 4:08 left to play. Hopewell then went on a mini-run about 30 seconds later with Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, who scored 24 points, tossing in five consecutive points to pull the Lady Vikings to within 60-55 with 3:20 remaining.
New Castle then turned the ball over and Hopewell had a chance to make things real interesting, but a 3-point attempt rimmed out. McPhatter made five of six free throws in the final 2:03 to secure the win in front of a coaches vs. cancer crowd. Both teams wore pink-and-white uniforms and some proceeds went to the American Cancer Society.
“Any time you play hard … you can’t ask for anything else (from the players),” Rankin said. “You are going to miss layups and make bad passes, but when you play hard you cover up a lot of your mistakes.”
And erase half-time deficits.
New Castle holds a half-game lead over Ambridge (8-2, 14-4) for first place in the section. The teams square off in the section finale at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House.
Hopewell is in fourth place and has a firm grip on the final playoff spot in the section.