Red Hurricane blows by Beaver, set for title game
New Castle (72) Vs. Beaver (31)
By Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News

WEXFORD — Can anyone play with the New Castle High basketball team?

Beaver, seeded 12th in the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs and appearing in the semifinals for the first time in school history, hoped it could.

But the top-seeded and unbeaten Red Hurricane squashed that thought quickly, using a 30-point second-quarter explosion to take command and roll to a 72-31 semifinal-round win at North Allegheny High School.

The ’Canes (25-0) advance to their first WPIAL championship game since 2002, when they competed in Class AAAA. New Castle, ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL in Class AAA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and No. 2 in the PIAA by the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, will play Hampton. The championship game is set for Friday at Duquesne University’s A.J. Palumbo Center at a time to be announced.

“I’m happy for my kids. That’s the bottom line,” second-year New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “I’m happy that right now they’re seeing the fruits of their labor. They’re seeing that the hard work they put in can pay huge dividends in terms of wins and all the things they’ve put in to get to this point.

“We’re not content to get here, though. They want to finish this thing.”

The third-seeded Talbots (22-3), coached by Westminster College standout Joe Lafko, reached the championship with a 52-42 win over second-seeded Montour. New Castle defeated Hampton in the third game of the regular season at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House, 78-61.

The ’Canes’ semifinal win over Beaver (18-7) was their third over the Section 2 rival this season. New Castle’s win also propelled Mars into the state playoffs.

“We just played at another level,” New Castle’s Shawn Anderson said of the third meeting. “We were prepared.”

Beaver tried to stay with New Castle, trailing just 12-8 with 1:52 to play in the opening quarter. But the ’Canes closed the period on a 7-0 run for a 19-8 margin. The Bobcats had 11 turnovers in the first quarter.

“The energy was just really good from the beginning,” Blundo said. “We turned them over a number of times in the first quarter, we just didn’t finish on the other end.

“We continued to turn them over. We continued to get pressure and finish on the other and knocked down a couple of 3s to extend the lead pretty quickly. Beating them twice, it was important to get out of the gate to make a little bit of uncertainty for them.”

The ’Canes wasted little time in the second quarter at putting the game away. New Castle opened a 35-10 second-quarter lead with 5:01 to play in the half and settled for a 49-15 halftime margin. Beaver made just seven field goals in the game, three came in the first half.

“The focus was tremendous. The energy was tremendous,” Blundo said. “I thought we really defended well.

“To give up three field goals in the first half, you can’t guard much better than that. They didn’t do anything different from the other games. We just played really, really well.”

Anderson recorded a game-high 20 points for New Castle, all of which came in the first half, including 10 in each of the first two periods.

“Throughout the first half, you didn’t really notice the score until you looked up at the scoreboard,” said Anderson of the lopsided score. “You think, ‘wow, look at the score. Look at the difference.’

“But during the game, you don’t really notice it.”

Anderson, a 6-foot-3 junior guard/forward/center, was 9 of 12 from the floor with four rebounds. Seven of his nine field goals were from inside the arc, and many were in the paint.

“Once the first 3 went in for me, which is unusual for me, I thought maybe this is my night,” Anderson said. “I hit the second one and I started to get into a groove.”

Beaver turnovers contributed to the large halftime margin. The Bobcats committed 20 first-half turnovers and 27 for the game.

“We understand defense is a statement for us. That’s what we have to do,” Anderson said. “We just came out ready and prepared to win. Things went our way tonight.”

New Castle’s defense was strong from the outset. Beaver turned the ball over on its first two possessions, failing to get the ball past midcourt each time and trailed 4-0. Bobcats coach Andy Podbielski called a 30-second timeout just 29 seconds into the game to try and halt the ’Canes’ momentum, but it didn’t work.

Podbielski, a Westminster College product, called two first-quarter timeouts and two more in the second quarter. He was left with one full timeout just 1:58 into the second quarter when Beaver trailed 29-10.

“You gotta use them,” Podbielski said of the timeouts. “It does me no good to have all those timeouts at the end of the game if we’re down 40 points. I was just trying to do something. It just wasn’t working out.”

Malik Hooker and Antonio Rudolph chipped in with 10 points each for the ’Canes.

New Castle built a 59-23 lead after three quarters. The majority of the second half was played under the mercy rule.

“They have a lot of guys that know how to play basketball and they play hard,” Podbielski said. “They get after it; they’re very impressive.”

Austin Logan came off the bench to lead Beaver with eight points.

(In Wednesday’s Print Edition: Sports writer Joe Simon says don’t expect the New Castle High boys basketball team to feel badly after thrashing Beaver last night.)

Game Scoreboard
New Castle 19 30 10 13 0 72
Beaver 8 7 8 8 0 31
Box Scores
Darian Bradley 0 0-0 0
Corey Nesmith 1 5-6 7
Nick Conjeski 1 3-4 5
Curt Lanctot 0 0-0 0
Christian Herstine 1 2-4 4
Aaron Barlow 0 1-2 1
Austin Logan 2 3-4 8
Colin Reese 0 0-0 0
Anthony DiNuzzo 0 0-0 0
Nick Sweed 0 1-2 1
Austin Saal 2 0-0 5.
Totals: 7 15-23 31.

Brandon Domenick 3 0-0 9
Corey Eggleston 1 1-2 3
Shawn Anderson 9 0-0 20
Anthony Richards 3 0-0 9
Malik Hooker 4 2-4 10
Antonio Rudolph 4 2-2 10
Jermaine Cuffie 0 0-0 0
Stew Allen 2 0-0 4
Jesse Salzano 1 0-0 3
Drew Allen 0 0-0 0
Levar Ware 2 0-0 4
Paul Jones 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 29 5-8 72.

BEAVER 8 7 8 8 — 31
NEW CASTLE 19 30 10 13 — 72

3-point goals — Beaver 2 (Logan 1, Saal 1), New Castle 9 (Domenick 3, Anderson 2, Richards 3, Salzano 1).
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