’Canes pull away for 20th straight home win
New Castle (75) Vs. Hampton (54)
By Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News

Fans got a rare treat last night at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House. Namely, a competitive boys basketball game going to the fourth quarter.

In the end, though, New Castle delivered what spectators are accustomed to — a blowout victory.

The Red Hurricane outscored visiting Hampton in the final frame by 19 points en route to a 75-54 WPIAL Section 3-AAAA victory in front of a packed field house.

New Castle (7-0 section, 14-0 overall) won its 38th straight regular season game and 20th in a row at home. None of the wins during the streak was decided by less than 10 points.

But last night’s game was shaping up like it would break many of those trends when the ’Canes entered the fourth up just 46-44.

“It’s what I expected the game to be,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “Early on, we just didn’t shoot it very well. We were executing well and guarding pretty good.

“They got a few easy ones. We made a couple of adjustments in the second half and then we started to knock some of them down. I know what the score said at the end of the game. But by no means was that a 21-point game. That was a two-point game going to the fourth quarter.”

The ’Canes are ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL in Class AAAA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Talbots (4-3, 11-3) are ranked No. 4.

While many have taken notice of the lengthy streak, the players succeed in dismissing it.

“We didn’t know the streak was up that high until just the other day,” ’Canes senior Shawn Anderson said. “We don’t really look at that. We just keep playing and then move on to the next game.”

Said New Castle junior Malik Hooker, “We don’t pay attention to it. It’s good to hear about it. But when we hear about it, we take it in for a quick second and then we just move on. You can’t let your head get too big, you have to stay focused.”

Anderson, a Navy recruit, helped New Castle take charge in the fourth quarter. He scored 11 of his 22 points in the final frame.

Hooker paced the ’Canes with 24 points, including 10 points in the second quarter and eight more in the third.

“Those two guys were just tremendous out there,” Blundo said. “The understanding and the ability to know each other and know where they’re at all the time. They found each other time and again for some easy shots.”

New Castle opened the fourth on an 11-0 run. Anthony Richards got the spurt going when he buried a 3-pointer 16 seconds into the stanza. Despite the close game, Blundo said there was no wake-up call for his troops.

“We were playing hard the whole time. It was just a matter of the ball going in more in the fourth quarter,” Blundo said. “The effort was the same and the execution was the same. We didn’t do much different.”

Hampton committed nine of its 18 turnovers in the final quarter as the ’Canes pulled away.

“You have to withstand their run,” said Talbots coach Joe Lafko, a former Westminster College standout. “Their run came a little later in the game.

“If you’re able to withstand that and be within striking distance, then I think you have a chance. Once the lead got to 12 or 13 points, it was just very difficult for us to have a chance to win.”

Hampton kept New Castle on the run early on, closing the opening quarter on an 11-5 spree for a 15-10 advantage. The Talbots pushed their lead to seven, their largest of the game, twice in the second quarter and the final time at 19-12 with 5:56 to go.

Hampton was playing New Castle in a 2-3 zone and was disrupting the hosts offensive flow.

“They have the tools to do it,” Blundo said of the Talbots’ zone. “There’s just not a whole lot of holes down there. They change a heck of a lot of shots with their length and they make it difficult.”

Said Hooker, “The type of 2-3 that they run is really hard. They spread the floor out and it makes it harder for us to get the ball down low. When we miss shots, we don’t get frustrated. That just makes us compete even harder.”

Hampton’s Ryan Luther, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, poured in a game-high 30 point, including 17 in the third quarter.

The game was a rematch of last year’s WPIAL Class AAA championship, which New Castle won, 57-44.

“We never even brought it up,” Lafko said. “That was last year and this is this year.”

Last night’s matchup completed a grueling stretch that saw the ’Canes play three games in five nights. New Castle routed North Allegheny (6-1, 12-1) in section action Friday, 88-43, and regrouped for a 60-44 decision over Class AAA Montour on Saturday.

“I think they were madly in love with it,” Blundo said of the stretch. “I think they enjoyed every last minute of it. If they could have another three-game stretch like that, they’d do it again.

“It was something we talked about, you have to take them one game at a time. There’s a sense of satisfaction knowing we completed a tough three-game stretch 3-0.”

“It’s just one game at a time,” Anderson said. “We understand a lot of teams will be gunning for us. But at the same time, you walk into the game, we’re gunning for them. We’re hungry and we’re out to prove that we’re the best team every night.

“Just as much as teams are coming after us, they’re getting an extra effort from us. We want to be the best and we want to prove it every night.”
Game Scoreboard
New Castle 10 18 18 29 0 75
Hampton 15 11 18 10 0 54
Box Scores
Jon Floss 3 0-0 7
Ryan Luther 13 3-4 30
Collin Luther 2 2-4 6
Joey Lafko 1 0-0 3
David Huber 2 2-2 6
Jake Adams 0 0-0 0
Hayden Seserko 0 0-0 0
Rich Ford 0 0-0 0
Tom Radziminski 0 0-0 0
James Edwards 0 0-0 0
Trace McConnell 1 0-0 2.
Totals: 22 7-10 54.

Brandon Domenick 2 2-2 8
Antonio Rudolph 0 2-2 2
Shawn Anderson 9 4-6 22
Anthony Richards 3 0-0 9
Malik Hooker 11 2-3 24
Jesse Salzano 0 0-0 0
Stew Allen 0 0-2 0
Drew Allen 2 2-2 8
Tyler Fitzpatrick 0 0-0 0
Micah Fulena 0 0-0 0
Levar Ware 1 0-0 2
Jake McPhatter 0 0-0 0
Robert Natale 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 28 12-17 75.

HAMPTON 15 11 18 10 — 54
NEW CASTLE 10 18 18 29 — 75
3-point goals — Hampton 2 (Floss 1, R. Luther 1, Lafko 1); New Castle 7 (Domenick 2, Richards 3, D. Allen 2).
JV score: New Castle 45, Hampton 41. High scorer: NC — Micah Fulena 14, Levar Ware 12.

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