’Canes top NA to clinch section outright
New Castle (74) Vs. North Allegheny (58)
By Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News

The New Castle High boys basketball team capped a return to the WPIAL Class AAAA ranks in style last night.

Malik Hooker led four Red Hurricane players in double figures with 19 points in a 74-58 WPIAL Section 3-AAAA victory over North Allegheny in front of a packed crowd at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House.

The win clinches the section championship outright for New Castle (13-0 section, 20-0 overall), which claimed at least a share with its win over Shaler last Friday. The league crown is the third straight for the ’Canes, but first in quad-A during that stretch following their climb from Section 2-AAA.

“We wanted to win it outright,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “We don’t want to share it with anybody.

“To do it three years in a row, these guys have left their mark, there’s no question. Three consecutive section championships is pretty remarkable.”

Hooker was 7 of 14 from the floor with eight rebounds.

“It feels great to win the championship outright,” Hooker said. “We’re section champs now, but that’s not what we’re worried about. We want to win the WPIAL title and then the state.”

Said Blundo of Hooker’s effort, “What I was most proud of with Malik is his ability to play with foul trouble. He was in early foul trouble. Typically, that’s something that bothers Malik when he gets into foul trouble. But he played well with the fouls and that’s the sign of growth.”

The ’Canes, ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL in Class AAAA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and No. 5 in the state by the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, won their 44th straight game and their 24th straight at home.

“We believed that we were one of the better teams coming into the season,” Blundo said of the section competition. “I don’t know that we knew that we could be 20-0 again at this point in the year. But our guys have played well.”

New Castle crushed the Tigers on their floor in the previous meeting, which was a clash of unbeatens at the time, 88-43.

North Allegheny (10-3, 16-3) battled the ’Canes throughout last night, building a 12-7 advantage early on. New Castle rallied to claim an 18-14 buffer at the end of the period.

“I’m pretty sure they were still thinking about the last game, so they came out much harder than they did the first game,” Hooker said. “They contested us this time, this game was a lot harder than the last game was. They brought a lot more energy.

“Coach (Blundo) didn’t have to tell us it would be a different game. We expected a totally different ballgame because we know North Allegheny is a great team and we just wanted to come out and play as hard as we can.”

Hooker helped the ’Canes take control in the second quarter. He scored 13 of his markers in the frame, including a field goal a minute into the stanza to give New Castle the lead for good at 20-19.

The ’Canes built the margin to 35-21 with 2:44 to go in the half before settling for a 42-30 advantage at the break.

North Allegheny turned the ball over 24 times, 13 coming in the first half.

“We only had 10 turnovers and that’s important for us,” Blundo said. “We hit the offensive boards and it gave us 20 extra possessions for the game. That’s New Castle basketball.”

New Castle’s lead grew to as much as 20 at 73-53 late in the game. The Tigers got as close as 10 just once in the second half at 62-52 with 6:19 remaining in the contest.

Shawn Anderson and Anthony Richards chipped in with 16 points each for the ’Canes. Anderson, who was 7 of 14 from the floor with a game-high 11 rebounds, started despite suffering a hip flexor in practice Sunday.

“Shawn was banged up early and it took him a while to get in the flow of the game,” Blundo said. “Shawn really stepped up in the second half.

“His hip was still a little bit tender in the first half. He didn’t practice at all yesterday. We were happy he was able to go because it would have been really hard to win this game without him.”

Brandon Domenick tossed in 10 points and handed out a game-high eight assists for victors.

David Haus netted 15 points to lead North Allegheny.

The New Castle junior varsity team won its game in thrilling fashion, 62-60 in overtime. Levar Ware converted a three-point play with 1.1 second left to earn the win. Ware finished with a game-best 34 points.

New Castle returns to action at 7:30 p.m. Friday at section rival Hampton.
Game Scoreboard
New Castle 18 24 20 12 0 74
North Allegheny 14 16 18 10 0 58
Box Scores
Joe Gwaltney 0 0-0 0
Elijah Zeise 4 0-2 8
R.J. Colabrese 1 1-2 3
David Haus 7 0-0 15
Adam Haus 5 0-0 13
Sean Hennigan 2 2-2 7
James Meeker 4 0-0 9
Luke Soyster 0 0-0 0
Andre Sumpter 0 0-0 0
Joe Mancini 1 0-0 3.
Totals: 24 3-6 58.
Brandon Domenick 2 5-6 10
Antonio Rudolph 1 1-1 3
Shawn Anderson 7 2-4 16
Anthony Richards 4 4-4 16
Malik Hooker 7 5-7 19
Stew Allen 1 0-2 2
Drew Allen 3 1-1 8.
Totals: 25 18-25 74.

N. ALLEGHENY 14 16 18 10 — 58
NEW CASTLE 18 24 20 12 — 74
3-point goals — North Allegheny 7 (D. Haus 1, A. Haus 3, Hennigan 1, Meeker 1, Mancini 1); New Castle 6 (Domenick 1, Richards 4, D. Allen 1).
JV score: New Castle 62, North Allegheny 60, OT. High scorer: NC — Levar Ware 34, Micah Fulena 17.

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