Mission accomplished
New Castle (57) Vs. Hampton (44)
By Joe Sager
New Castle News

PITTSBURGH — Check another one off New Castle’s to-do list — a WPIAL championship.

The Red Hurricane achieved that goal last night with a 57-44 win over Hampton at Duquesne University’s A.J. Palumbo Center.

“It feels great,” said New Castle’s Shawn Anderson, who scored a game-high 24 points. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to work so hard and finally have it pay off.”

It’s the eighth WPIAL boys crown — and first since 1999 — for New Castle, and the ’Canes did it in style with a 26-0 record.

“We’re just happy we won a WPIAL championship. I told the guys coming into the playoffs the other 22 games were insignificant once we got the No. 1 seed. We were 0-0, just like everyone else. I am just happy for my guys,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “This is something that is maybe once in a lifetime. The big thing is that it’s another opportunity to teach them how to handle success. We’ll get that opportunity coming up. These kids need to enjoy this moment because it was quite a journey for them.”

The battle against the Talbots (22-4) was quite a voyage as well. Faced with Hampton’s imposing height in Ryan Luther (6-foot-6), Collin Luther (6-5) and Mark Pilarski (6-5), New Castle needed to work its way through the Talbots’ zone defense with precision.

Also, it forced the ’Canes to adapt to a slower pace, but they didn’t mind as they used a 7-0 spurt late in the first quarter to post a 14-10 lead at the buzzer.

“We didn’t feel like we had to push the tempo to be effective,” Blundo said. “They are 6-6, 6-5, 6-5 across that back line and there are not a lot of holes in that zone. You have to be really effective and execute well in order to score against them.

“In order to beat Hampton, you have to play well and we played well,” he continued. “Once we got the lead, it kind of forced them to extend their zone a little more than they wanted to and things got going for us.”

Fittingly, it was “Tone” who set the tone for New Castle. Antonio Rudolph’s steal and slam dunk highlighted the ’Canes’ 10-0 run early in the second quarter.

“We were just waiting (for a spark). I was being patient and it came,” Rudolph said.

He snared an errant pass in the Hampton backcourt and raced toward the hoop, jumped and threw down a jam to give New Castle a 20-12 lead 2:22 into the frame.

“I heard the fans scream for me to dunk it. I felt two people beside me, but I was going to do it,” Rudolph said with a smile. “It felt real good and I turned around and saw Corey (Eggleston) in my face telling me to hurry up and get back on defense. After the dunk, the crowd got hyped. When the crowd gets hyped, that’s when we go do our thing.”

Indeed. The dunk brought the large New Castle crowd alive and infused some energy into the ’Canes.

“I think we came out a tad bit nervous. We were playing our game; we were into it. But, we didn’t have that extra step we normally have,” Anderson said. “When Tone made that dunk, it helped us out big time. That’s why he’s there — to give us a lift.”

Eggleston added an inside basket and Rudolph contributed his ninth point of the first half to cap the New Castle spurt and extend the ’Canes’ lead to 24-12 with 4:10 to go in the second. They carried a 30-17 buffer into halftime.

Brandon Domenick’s 3-pointer pushed New Castle’s advantage to 15 points, 37-22, with 5:17 left in the third. Coach Joe Lafko’s Hampton team, playing in its fourth WPIAL title game in the past six years, trimmed to deficit to 42-30 at the end of the third and got within 10 points, 44-34, with 5:56 remaining in the contest, but could not overcome the ’Canes. Lafko is a former Westminster College star.

Anderson and Eggleston teamed up to score all 15 of New Castle’s points in the fourth quarter. Anderson converted all four of his foul shots, while Eggleston was 2-for-2. On the night, the ’Canes were perfect on all nine freebie tries, which slammed the door on the Talbots.

“At the beginning of practice, we shoot free throws all the way up until coach Blundo feels we’re ready,” Anderson said. “He’s been on us about concentrating. We’ve matured to the point where, if we know we need to, we can hit it.”

Despite its height disadvantage, New Castle was able to limit the tall Talbots’ effectiveness. Ryan Luther led Hampton with 14 points, while Pilarski had 12 and Collin Luther added 10. However, the three players were unable to dominate for long stretches.

“We didn’t do a great job boxing out,” Anderson said. “Pilarski killed us inside and so did Ryan Luther. Once they come down with it, we’re smaller and they can’t see us sometimes, so we just go after it.”

Both teams advance to the PIAA tournament Friday at times and sites to be announced. The ’Canes play Hickory, the District 10 No. 3 seed, while Hampton meets Warren, D-10’s No. 2 seed. New Castle is ready to refocus on its next objective.

“This is a step to our goal. Our goal is a state title,” Anderson said. “You use this as a step and keep getting better and better and, ultimately, you want to be state champions.”

Eggleston, the team’s only senior starter, is happy to win a gold medal. But, he wants another.

“It feels great to do this my senior year. Just getting out on Duquesne’s floor with my guys and family, it’s a great feeling,” he said. “We’re real pumped. But, when we go back to practice, we have to put this behind us. We’ll let this settle for a couple days, but we’ll put it behind us and start over fresh again and keep working hard for the state playoffs.”

(E-mail: ncsports@ncnewsonline.com)
Game Scoreboard
New Castle 14 16 12 15 0 57
Hampton 10 7 13 14 0 44
Box Scores
David Klodowski 0 0-0 0
Mark Pilarski 6 0-1 12
David Huber 2 0-0 4
Collin Luther 3 3-4 10
Ryan Luther 5 3-4 14
John Floss 0 0-0 0
Joey Lafko 2 0-0 4
Totals: 18 6-9 44

Brandon Domenick 2 0-0 6
Corey Eggleston 5 2-2 13
Shawn Anderson 9 6-6 24
Anthony Richards 1 0-0 3
Malik Hooker 1 0-0 2
Antonio Rudolph 4 1-1 9
Stew Allen 0 0-0 0
Totals: 22 9-9 57

HAMPTON 10 7 13 14 — 44
NEW CASTLE 14 16 12 15 — 57

3-point goals — Hampton 2 (R. Luther 1, C. Luther 1), New Castle 4 (Domenick 2, Richards 1, Eggleston 1).
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