’Canes whip Sharon to remain unbeaten
New Castle (86) Vs. Sharon (50)
By Joe Sager
New Castle News
New Castle High’s regular season ended the same way it started — with a blowout win.
The Red Hurricane wrapped up its 22nd win last night with an 86-50 home triumph over Sharon in a nonconference boys basketball game at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House.
In addition, it was New Castle’s second-straight undefeated regular season. This year’s came in WPIAL Class AAAA, while last year’s occurred in Class AAA.
“You just don’t see that. It doesn’t happen, especially in basketball, because it only takes one night where the stars don’t align, you get in foul trouble or you don’t shoot it well and you lose,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “It’s a tribute to the consistency of the effort and the focus every single night that we never got stung along the way. You can attribute that to our leaders, the four seniors.”
The ’Canes’ seniors (Shawn Anderson, Brandon Domenick, Antonio Rudolph and Jesse Salzano) helped give the squad a 24-9 lead after the first and a 35-16 halftime edge against the Tigers (11-9), coached by former New Castle girls head coach and 1982 New Castle graduate Jason Rankin.
New Castle (22-0), 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 its 46th-straight regular-season game. Overall, the ’Canes have won 49 of their last 50 games. Blundo, who is 95-11 in three years as New Castle’s head coach (69-9) and one leading George Junior Republic (26-2), was sad to see his team play its final home game as a group.
“It was something I struggled with all day long, actually, knowing that I was going to address these guys for the last time on this floor,” he said. “They are the guys who created this whole thing. They have been the trailblazers here. It’s been a great group to work with over the last three years.”
Rankin, who racked up a 59-19 mark and a WPIAL title in three seasons leading the Lady ’Canes, has Sharon in contention for a District 10, Class AAA playoff spot in his first year at the helm.
“It’s been bumpy. We knew there were issues. One of the issues that comes up is, when you have talent, there’s an assumption that you’re going to be good,” he said. “You have to play hard first and you have to play smart. We’ve really worked to try to get that together. We started out in a tough situation and we got better. We still have a long way to go. It’s been a challenge, but a challenge worth it.
“It was special coming back here because of all the friends I have. A lot of people came and talked to me and said they were happy to see me and stuff like that and that made it really special,” he continued. “It was a tough night because we were playing a really good team on a special night for them, which made it a daunting task and that much tougher.”
Blundo has been impressed with what Rankin and his staff have done with the Tigers.
“He has had a lot of adversity. He’s lost some players for a variety of reasons and some very good players at that. It can go the other way real fast when that happens. It doesn’t when the coach does a good job of maintaining the focus and not allowing the team to go into a tailspin and Jason’s done that,” Blundo said. “I think they’ve won six of their last seven. It’s no surprise to me. I know Jason is a very good basketball coach.
“All the coaches who have come through here at New Castle, we root for each other and try to help each other every chance we get when we can. It’s a close fraternity in that regard. I hope for the best for Jason.”
Anderson scored a game-high 25 points for the ’Canes, while Malik Hooker added 21.
Khalil Hopson led Sharon with 22 points and surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career.