'Canes' rally falls short against Blackhawk
Blackhawk (58) Vs. New Castle (54)
By JOE SAGER
CHIPPEWA — Tears of sadness don’t often illustrate character.
Last night, they did for the New Castle High boys basketball team.
Even though it was a loss, the Red Hurricane played one of its most-defining games of the season in a 58-54 WPIAL Section 2-AAA setback at Blackhawk.
New Castle nearly overcame an 11-point third-quarter deficit. The ’Canes even had a chance to send the game into overtime, but failed to get off a shot as the Cougars held on for the key win to tie New Castle atop the section standings with one game remaining.
“I believe my kids are winners. They didn’t win the basketball game, but they certainly fought hard. I am proud of them for that. My hat’s off to Blackhawk; I thought they played an excellent basketball game on both ends of the floor. I believe they played superbly,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “We had a good look and didn’t get it to drop and that’s basketball. But, the young kids out there fighting hard in a hostile environment are very disappointed.”
Even though the game proved to be a good test of the young team’s character, the ’Canes are more interested in wins and championships. New Castle (9-2 section, 14-6 overall) can share the section title with the Cougars (9-2, 14-6) if it beats cellar-dwelling Ambridge (1-10, 1-20) on Friday. A win and a Blackhawk loss would give the ’Canes an outright championship.
“We put ourselves in good enough position that, if we take care of business on Friday night, we’ll be section champs,” Blundo said. “Going into this year, I am not sure there were many people who thought that was possible. We’ll put this one behind us. They are young kids and it might be difficult for them to do it, but it’s my job to see to it that we put it behind us and begin to prepare for Ambridge on Friday.”
It was a must-win game for the Cougars, but they are not celebrating too much. Blackhawk can’t afford a letdown and must take care of business against Beaver (5-6, 10-10) on Friday.
“It was a huge win for us and it was a nice atmosphere for a high school basketball game,” Blackhawk coach Andy Hedrick said. “We have to play Beaver on Friday and they just beat Central Valley. So, it’s not over. We have one more step before we can get there.”
Blackhawk took control in the second quarter and carried a 30-25 lead into halftime. In the third, the hosts started to pull away. After an Anthony Richards 3-pointer brought New Castle within 32-30, the Cougars went on an 11-2 spree to post a 43-32 lead with 3:05 left in the period.
Enter Corey Eggleston. The junior guard personally led the ’Canes’ charge. He scored six quick points and had New Castle’s next 10, too, as the guests trimmed the deficit to 51-48 with 6:14 remaining in the contest.
“He got such good penetration all night long. He played extremely well. He wanted this badly,” Blundo said. “He told the guys, ‘Hey jump on my back; we’re going to try to get this done.’ He and all the guys did all that they could with the roles they were given and it just didn’t work out in the end.”
Blackhawk responded with Chandler Kincade’s two free throws and a bucket to make it a 55-48 lead with 4:49 to go. Richards and Brandon Domenick swished consecutive treys to cut the ’Canes’ deficit to 55-54 with 3:35 on the clock.
After getting a defensive stop, New Castle’s offense worked the ball methodically for a shot. The team chewed more than two minutes off the clock before failing to convert. Tyler Damazo’s inside hoop gave the hosts a 57-54 edge with 23 seconds to play.
The ’Canes had a chance to tie, but a 3-pointer missed its mark. They got a break when Blackhawk turned the ball over on its next possession. However, New Castle was unable to produce another shot as it lost the ball out of bounds with 8.5 seconds remaining. Damazo split a pair of free throws to set the final verdict.
“They are a phenomenal team. I think coach Blundo is sensational. It seemed whenever we were able to make a run, he was able to switch something up and get a couple buckets here and there,” Hedrick said. “It seemed like every time they got close, we got a bucket on the next possession. I think if they were able to get a lead after being down 11, that could have jumped to us being down five or six really quickly.
“All around, we played well, though. Eggleston was sensational. For them to not even have a senior on that team, that’s an unbelievable team to watch for the next few years.”
Eggleston led all scorers with 24 points. Shawn Anderson added 13 markers despite being in early foul trouble and picking up his fifth personal foul early in the fourth.
Kincade led Blackhawk with 18 points and Damazo had 14.