‘Canes earn share of section crown
New Castle (70) Vs. Ambridge (31)
By RON PONIEWASZ JR.
Step one is successfully in the books for the New Castle High boys basketball team.
Up next: the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.
Corey Eggleston led three Red Hurricane scorers in double figures in a 70-31 WPIAL Section 2-AAA romp of Ambridge at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House.
The win clinches a share of the section title for New Castle (10-2, 15-6) with Blackhawk (10-2, 15-6). The Cougars knocked off the ’Canes, 58-54, on Tuesday to climb back in championship contention.
Blackhawk topped Beaver last night, 59-40, to earn a part of the crown and eliminate the Bobcats (5-7, 10-11) as well.
“It’s been quite a journey,” first-year ’Canes coach Ralph Blundo said. “I didn’t quite know what to expect with so many young kids; there’s an unknown with so many freshmen and sophomores.
“The fact the game tonight meant if they won they’d be section champions really helped. That type of game will get you ready to play. Fortunately, it was that type of game. If it wasn’t that type of game, it would have been difficult for us to be ready.”
Eggleston, a 5-foot-10 junior guard, played a role as a freshman in the ’Canes’ last section championship. Last year, New Castle reached the playoffs but finished just 6-15.
“This is just the first step among many,” Eggleston said. “Once the game is over, coach Blundo tells us that game is out of the way and let’s get prepared for the next one.
“We knew it was realistic because coach Blundo told us to throw (last season) out the door. He told us if you don’t practice hard, just remember what you did last year. You had a great team last year, but you didn’t have a great season.”
Eggleston was 7 of 17 from the floor, with eight rebounds, six assists and three steals. He scored all eight of his first-half points in the second quarter as New Castle stretched a 10-5 lead after one to 35-12 at the break.
“We started off sluggish early,” Eggleston said. “We know Ambridge still could come out and beat us. We knew what we had to do to step it up and play hard to get the win.”
The ’Canes turned up the defensive pressure, forcing 19 turnovers — 12 coming in the first half.
“Are we where we’re supposed to be? I don’t think our man-to-man was great tonight,” Blundo said. “I don’t think it was great against Blackhawk, either.
“We’ll work on that. If we’re going to be who we want to be, we’re going to have to get better.”
Antonio Rudolph contributed 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting with five rebounds. Included in his five field goals were a pair of dunks. Brandon Domenick chipped in with 12 markers and four assists, and Anthony Richards tossed in nine markers on a trio of triplicates.
New Castle was 26 of 57 from the field, including 9 of 22 from behind the arc.
“We’re a perimeter-oriented team,” Blundo said. “Richards and Domenick knocked down some big 3s, and we expect them to do that. Really, that’s what stretched the game out and got us going.”
Malik Walker led the Bridgers (1-11, 1-21) with 11 points.
New Castle hosts Sewickley Academy in the regular season finale at 7:30 p.m. Monday. The WPIAL will announce the basketball pairings at a meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Radisson Hotel in Green Tree, with postseason games slated to start Feb. 18.
“I’m proud of my young men,” Blundo said. “These are high character young men. I don’t believe you win championships without high character and we have that.”