’Canes rally to top Mason, Highlands
New Castle (74) Vs. Highlands (58)
By Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News

WEXFORD — Micah Mason got his points.

But that didn’t stop the New Castle High boys basketball team from getting another victory last night.

Mason recorded a game-high 30 points, but the Red Hurricane survived a scare to pull away for a 74-58 WPIAL Class AAA first-round playoff win over Highlands at North Allegheny High School.

Top-seeded New Castle (23-0) advances to meet ninth-seeded Mars, a 57-42 victor over West Mifflin, on Friday at a time and site to be announced. The ’Canes are ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL in Class AAA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and No. 2 in the state by the Patriot-News of Harrisburg.

The ’Canes trailed 36-35 at the half, their first halftime deficit of the season.

“They’re not a 16 seed,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said of Highlands. “There’s a lot of other teams that I would have preferred to play. But that’s who the committee gave us and we took it as a challenge and did what we had to do.”

The ’Canes, though, rebounded in the second half. They closed the third quarter on a 17-3 run to take control and forge a 56-43 margin going to the fourth.

“We knew that’s when it had to happen. In the third quarter, without a doubt,” Blundo said of the turnaround. “We talked about the first four minutes of the third quarter being huge.”

Senior standout Corey Eggleston scored seven points during the pivotal third-quarter run for the ’Canes.

“I think we were just panicking in the first half,” Eggleston said. “We didn’t see a player like that this year. There was a lot of chaos.

“There was just a lot of running around. We came together as a team in that second half and put it together.”

Eggleston posted a team-high 22 points, to go along with 10 rebounds and four assists. He was 10 for 20 from the field.

Anthony Richards followed with 17 points for New Castle. Richards was 6 of 14 from the floor, including 5 of 12 from behind the arc. Shawn Anderson chipped in with 15 markers for the winners and Malik Hooker added 14 with a game-high 12 boards.

Anderson netted eight of his points in the second half, including critical buckets in the paint as the ’Canes put it out of reach in the fourth frame.

“I didn’t do anything out of the normal,” Anderson said. “It was my teammates that stepped up. They were giving me the ball. I just played hard and so did my teammates.”

Brandon Domenick handed out 11 assists for the ’Canes.

“I’m happy with the performance of all of the guys,” Blundo said. “I don’t think that we executed perfectly against their zone. But we found a way to get it done.

“It was a great team effort from the guys.”

New Castle was 30 of 70 from the field, including 9 of 24 from behind the arc. Highlands (9-15) was 22 of 41, 9 of 20 from 3-point range.

“I think last year, we didn’t shoot it great from the outside in the playoffs and that was one of our problems,” Blundo said. “I take the blame for that. I grinded these guys to a nub last year. They were young and tired.”

Richards buried five of New Castle’s 3-pointers.

The final represented the largest margin in an otherwise tightly contested game.

Mason scored just three points — all on foul shots — in the third period, before adding seven more in the fourth. The 6-foot-2 senior guard and Drake recruit finished his career with 2,272 points, good for 12th on the WPIAL’s all-time scoring list.

His six 3s bumps his career total to 346, a WPIAL record.

“It’s good to get individual accomplishments, but I’d rather win playoff games and win a championship game,” Mason said.

“Micah is a special player,” said Golden Rams coach Shawn Bennis, who is resigning after three seasons at the helm. “He led us to the victories we had and he led us by making good decisions on both ends of the floor.”

New Castle is off to its best start since winning its first 27 games of the 2001-2002 season. The ’Canes lost to Uniontown that year in the WPIAL championship matchup.

(E-mail: rponiewasz@ncnewsonline.com).
Game Scoreboard
New Castle 13 22 21 18 0 74
Highlands 14 22 7 15 0 58
Box Scores
Micah Mason 10 4-7 30
Tyler Szymkiewicz 1 0-0 2
Tyler Kazmierczyk 3 0-0 8
Glenn Saunders 3 0-0 7
Gage Clark 5 1-3 11
Alan Crise 0 0-0 0
Nathan Virag 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 22 5-10 58.

Brandon Domenick 2 0-0 6
Corey Eggleston 10 1-1 22
Shawn Anderson 6 2-2 15
Anthony Richards 6 0-0 17
Malik Hooker 6 2-6 14
Antonio Rudolph 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 30 5-9 74.

HIGHLANDS 14 22 7 15 — 58
NEW CASTLE 13 22 21 18 — 74

3-point goals — Highlands 9 (Mason 6, Kazmierczyk 2, Saunders 1), New Castle 9 (Domenick 2, Eggleston 1, Anderson 1, Richards 5).

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