’Canes guard hard in win over Pine-Richland
New Castle (67) Vs. Pine-Richland (45)
By Joe Sager
New Castle News

What’s better — offense or defense?

That’s a question the New Castle High boys basketball team often asks itself. Regardless, it’s a good dilemma for the Red Hurricane.

Last night, New Castle’s defense asserted itself and sparked the squad to a 67-45 home win over Pine-Richland in WPIAL Section 3-AAAA action.

The ’Canes (2-0 section, 6-0 overall) got off to a slow offensive start against the Rams (1-1, 4-2). New Castle missed on its first five shots and was 1 for 7 from the field early in the first quarter.

“Sometimes, it appears that you’re not playing well, but the ball just isn’t going in the hole. We were executing well; we were guarding well; we got good looks, but it just wasn’t going in early,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “We’ve shot it so well all year. You’re just not going to shoot it great every night and we didn’t, but we played hard. This is what you get in this section. It’ll be ugly. Teams play hard; they scratch and claw and compete.”

The hosts carried an 11-8 lead into the second quarter, but were able to pull away. After clinging to an 18-17 edge, Brandon Domenick swished a 3-pointer and Antonio Rudolph swept in for a putback. Malik Hooker followed with a steal and a breakaway dunk to give the ’Canes a 25-17 lead with 2:25 left in the half. They closed the frame with a 6-2 run to post a 31-19 edge at the buzzer.

“It was a bad night for us on offense, so we had to turn around and play better defense and get more turnovers from them and take some charges. We all stepped up on D,” Rudolph said. “Our defense is just as good as our offense, if not better. I believe I am more of a defensive player, so I try to step up in my role with defense.”

Rudolph finished with two points, but was a force on defense. He had four rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block. In addition, Hooker played well on both ends. He led all scorers with 17 points and had 12 rebounds, seven steals and four blocks.

“I thought that (Rudolph’s) all-around defensive game and his all-around energy throughout the course of the game was key. He got his hands on so many passes and shots,” Blundo said. “He really locked up (Dean) Steliotes. He did a great job on him. Our thought was, if we could shut him down, they’d have a hard time scoring. Malik, those double-doubles for him are becoming commonplace.”

New Castle pulled away in the third as its aggressive defensive pressure and hustling wore down Pine-Richland, which led to more easy baskets.

“That’s the culture of our team. We just play one way. I never have to worry about my guys playing hard or playing with great energy. It’s just who they are,” Blundo said. “Believe me, if we didn’t play that way, we would have been in for a real dogfight; it would have been a very tight game.”

Shawn Anderson had 15 points, while Domenick had 11 points.

Levar Ware’s 21 points led New Castle to a 67-51 win in the junior varsity game. It’s the ’Canes’ 31st-straight JV win.

“We have a good group playing junior varsity right now. One of the reasons we’re able to continually get better is because our second team is really, really good. They keep pushing guys,” Blundo said. “The guys who are playing know that if they don’t play well, there are other guys who can step in and will. We have great team chemistry right now. I am pleased with where we are.”
Game Scoreboard
New Castle 11 20 18 18 0 67
Pine-Richland 8 11 12 14 0 45
Box Scores
Dean Steliotes 3 0-0 8
Brock Baranowski 0 0-0 0
Shea Sullivan 2 1-2 5
Sam Dunsmore 1 3-4 5
Collin Jackson 1 4-6 6
Tom Hartmann 0 1-2 1
Pat Sullivan 2 0-0 5
Tim Williams 5 1-2 12
Alan Jacks 0 0-0 0
Chris Gingrich 0 0-0 0
Ben DiNucci 1 0-0 3.
Totals: 15 10-16 45.

Brandon Domenick 4 0-0 11
Antonio Rudolph 1 0-0 2
Shawn Anderson 6 3-5 15
Anthony Richards 0 2-2 2
Malik Hooker 5 6-8 17
Jesse Salzano 1 0-0 2
Stew Allen 2 0-0 4
Drew Allen 3 4-4 10
Tyler Fitzpatrick 0 0-0 0
Micah Fulena 0 0-0 0
Levar Ware 1 0-0 2
Jake McPhatter 1 0-0 2
Robert Natale 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 24 15-19 67.

PINE-RICHLAND 8 11 12 14 — 45
NEW CASTLE 11 20 18 18 — 67
3-point goals — Pine-Richland 4 (Steliontes 2, Sullivan 1, Williams 1); New Castle 4 (Domenick 3, Hooker 1).
JV score: New Castle 67, Pine-Richland 51; High scorer: N — Levar Ware 21.
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