’Canes avenge loss to Central Valley
New Castle (70) Vs. Central Valley (60)
By JOE SAGER
MONACA — Presidents Day, Valentine’s Day and the Super Bowl – all three are important February dates.
However, the New Castle High boys basketball team had a bigger circle on its calendar — a WPIAL Section 2-AAA clash at Central Valley.
Those first three events will seem much sweeter after the ’Canes upended the Warriors, 70-60, to remain atop the section standings.
The triumph avenged New Castle’s only section loss – a 72-51 home setback to Central Valley on Jan. 7.
“It’s an enormous win. I know my guys are extremely competitive young men. It’s something that’s been on their minds since it happened,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “We’ve won six section games since then. I really think that loss might have been a springboard to our season. They didn’t like it, so they have worked extremely hard and played extremely well.”
In that defeat, the ’Canes (8-1 section, 13-5 overall) hit a dry spell, which took them out of the game. Last night, they reversed the game and shut out the Warriors (6-4, 10-7) for nearly nine minutes (8:56) at one stretch in the first half.
“I just think on that particular night of the loss, we played poorly and they played great. On this particular night, we played well and they did not. I’d like to think we had something to do with that,” Blundo said. “That’s a really good basketball team over there. They are not going to be an easy out for any team in the playoffs.”
New Castle turned up the defensive pressure late in the first quarter. After Nick Delisio drained a 3-pointer to knot the game at 12-all with 1:54 left in the frame, the ’Canes went on a 16-0 run to grab a 28-12 lead with 3:14 remaining in the second.
“Antonio Rudolph picked up the intensity at the start of the game,” New Castle guard Corey Eggleston said. “He helped us at the top of the zone get in and get steals and that got our momentum going and that helped us out a lot.”
Eggleston, too, played a big part in New Castle’s defensive approach. He was tasked with limiting the Warriors’ Daniel Steffine, who tallied 21 points in the teams’ first meeting. The junior succeeded as Steffine managed just five points.
“My concern coming in here wasn’t whether we were going to score,” Blundo said. “They are one of the few teams that made us look bad defensively this year, so our concern and preparation this week was how we were going to guard them. Clearly, tonight was Corey’s best all-around basketball game. He only had 11 points, but we knew if Steffine didn’t get going, they’d have a hard time beating us. Corey saw to it that it didn’t happen.” Normally the ’Canes’ go-to guy on offense, Eggleston didn’t mind shifting his attention to defense.
“I am a scorer, but whatever the coaches ask me to do, I will do. I focused way more on defense and we all played well and we all kept our guys under control and that helped me out a lot, too,” he said. “(Steffine) had 21 on us the first game, so limiting him to five points was a good thing. My teammates around me helped me out a lot. Without their help, I couldn’t have stopped him like that.”
New Castle increased its 34-17 halftime lead to 51-33 at the end of the third. The advantage swelled to 20 points, 56-36, before Central Valley made a run. The Warriors’ pressure defense created some turnovers and the hosts cut the deficit to 61-53 with 2:02 to play.
Once again, the ’Canes turned to their defense and generated turnovers on Central Valley’s next three possessions. New Castle transformed those into quick points on an Anthony Richards 3-pointer and an Eggleston hoop and free throw to push the margin back up to 67-53 with 1:05 on the clock.
“I think the kids had that extra-play mentality that we preach,” Blundo said. “Regardless of what was going on, they got to that next play. Good or bad, they continued to play hard. I am proud of them. They are not playing like freshmen and sophomores.”
Shawn Anderson led New Castle with 23 points, while Eggleston and Brandon Domenick both had 11. Richards had nine and Malik Hooker added seven for the ’Canes, who welcome Hopewell on Friday.
“We want to keep it going. We’re not going to slack on anybody because anyone in our section can win, as you can see,” Eggleston said. “As long as we keep playing hard and doing things the way we can do them, we’re a young team and we’ll get on a run and have fun.”