New Castle (88) Vs. North Allegheny (43)
By Joe Sager
New Castle News
WEXFORD — It’s not often you get a glimpse of greatness.
The approximately 2,500 fans at North Allegheny High’s gym saw nearly four quarters of it last night.
According to many, New Castle produced perhaps its finest performance in recent memory in the Red Hurricane’s biggest game to date in the young season with an 88-43 rout of the host Tigers in a WPIAL Section 3-AAAA battle.
New Castle (6-0 section, 12-0 overall) and North Allegheny (5-1, 11-1) entered the colossal showdown ranked first and second in WPIAL Class AAAA. However, the titanic struggle never ensued as the ’Canes blitzed the Tigers.
“We knew it was going to be a heated contest. Coach said we had a look in our eyes the first two days of practice leading up to this. We try to do that every time, but for a game like this, it’s kind of natural to be hyped up and ready to play” said New Castle’s Shawn Anderson, who produced a game-best 23 points. “We played awesome tonight. NA is a great team; all respect goes to them. It was just one of those nights where we were clicking on all cylinders. Once we start going and clicking on all cylinders, it’s very hard to get the ball up the floor against us.”
New Castle’s defense smothered North Allegheny, which averages 72.3 points per game. Recently, the Tigers had been riding hot 3-point shooting in their dribble-drive offense. The ’Canes’ defenders completely neutralized that long-range threat with their in-your-face, pressure defense.
“There’s nothing more you can do than give credit to New Castle. New Castle played very, very well,” North Allegheny coach Dave DeGregorio said. “New Castle did a lot of things to make us not play well. They took out us out of any kind of rhythm. We never looked and/or felt comfortable the whole game. It’s what we do to teams a lot of times. Tonight, they did it to us.”
New Castle coach Ralph Blundo, who picked up his 85th career coaching win in the triumph, credits the team’s intensity and focus.
“If you play it one notch lower, in terms of your energy level, they’ll get off way more and they will be way more effective,” said Blundo, who is 85-11 in three years as New Castle’s head coach (59-9) and one leading George Junior Republic (26-2). “We just played extraordinarily well. NA has some great coaches and kids over there and they’re playing some great basketball right now. Tonight just wasn’t their night.”
Offensively, New Castle couldn’t be stopped, either. After falling behind, 4-2, the ’Canes, who have won 40 of their last 41 games overall, erupted for a 14-0 run and closed the first quarter with a 28-8 advantage. Seven different New Castle players scored in that opening stanza and the team drained four of its 12 3-pointers.
More balanced scoring pushed the ’Canes’ lead to 50-16 at halftime. The Tigers scored the first bucket of the second half, but New Castle responded with a 12-0 run to make it a 62-26 game with 4:48 left in the third. Game over.
“Clearly, we played really well. That’s the only way that (blowout) happened because North Allegheny is that good. I don’t know that we could play any better than we did. The energy was great; the focus was great. We played smart, hard New Castle basketball. I am proud of my guys,” Blundo said. “We’re mirror images of each other. Part of it is the ball going in. The ball went in early, momentum started to build and the energy was there. We really never let up. Statement game? I don’t know. We just came out and played really hard and well and were able to win the basketball game.”
Scores of boisterous ’Canes fans made the trek to NA and packed the stands. Their cheers echoed throughout the gym during the game. Anderson stressed that the playoff-like atmosphere was a catalyst for New Castle’s effort.
“The fans deserve so much more credit than they get. To hear them screaming, not only does it motivate us, but for the other teams it’s a shock. Not everyone is used to playing in front of the 2,500 people who were here tonight. We’ve played against that multiple times and it works to our benefit,” he said.
Anthony Richards added 14 points for the ’Canes, while Drew Allen had 13 off the bench. Brandon Domenick had 10. Every other player who saw action contributed.
New Castle faces another tough challenge tonight when it meets Montour (8-3) in the Coaches vs. Cancer Clash of the Titans at Geneva College. The Spartans ended the ’Canes’ season last year in the PIAA playoffs. Overall, New Castle has won 36-straight regular-season games with the defeat coming loss Feb. 8, 2011, at Blackhawk (58-54).
“That loss to Monour last year was hard to swallow,” Anderson said. “We’ll come out with the same energy we had tonight. We’ve matured. As soon as we got in the locker room, Antonio Rudolph said, ‘Guys, I am happy we won, but we have Montour next. We want that win, so let’s put this one behind us.’ We’ll be ready.”