’Canes outlast Lincoln Park in explosive matchup
New Castle (71) Vs. Lincoln Park (63)
By Shawn Fox
New Castle News

MONACA — Consider it a test passed for the New Castle High boys basketball team.

The Red Hurricane found itself in unfamiliar territory Saturday night against Lincoln Park, trailing by two with only four minutes remaining in a matchup of the top-ranked teams in the WPIAL in Class AAAA and Class A, respectively.

However, coach Ralph Blundo’s ’Canes answered the challenge and pulled away from the Leopards down the stretch to post a 71-63 victory in the championship game of the Gray Division in the 22nd annual C.J. Betters RBA Holiday Classic at the Golden Dome on the campus of the Community College of Beaver County.

“I thought they responded great,” said Blundo, whose team improved to 8-0. “We were down two in the fourth quarter, and that’s only happened twice in the last 60 games. Just to be involved in a tough game in a hostile environment was really good for our guys.”

Lincoln Park, which trailed by as many as 12 points in the third quarter, opened the fourth quarter with a 12-4 run to grab a 56-54 lead with 4:16 remaining in the game. Following Elijah Minnie’s old-fashioned three-point play, New Castle called a timeout.

“We called a timeout and had to regroup,” said tournament MVP Malik Hooker, who finished with a game-high 22 points and 12 rebounds. “We came back on the floor and said the last four minutes of the game we had to gut it out, and that’s what we did.”

Out of the timeout, Drew Allen knocked down a 3-pointer from the right corner to give the ’Canes a lead they would never relinquish. Hooker then scored on a layup before Renell Cummings hit a pair of free throws to draw the Leopards (6-1) again to within one, 59-58, with 2:50 remaining.

Anthony Richards made sure Lincoln Park would get no closer as he buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Richards was fouled on the play by Minnie, and he coolly sank the free throw to give New Castle a 63-58 lead.

“It’s been four years of that with Anthony,” Blundo said. “When he gets a good look in the biggest situations, I don’t recall him missing. He’s as special as they come.”

Richards, who was named to the all-tournament team, finished with 18 points. The senior guard also connected on five 3-pointers.

“They were playing that extended 1-2-2 trap, and our guys up top and down low did a great job of moving the ball and finding the open man,” Richards said. “I made a couple of shots tonight.”

Fellow all-tournament honoree Stew Allen followed up Richards’ four-point play with an inside bucket that increased the ’Canes’ lead to seven with 1:57 remaining in the game and forced Lincoln Park to call a timeout. Allen finished the game with 16 points.

“We started going offense-defense (matchups) and we brought five guards in (on offense) because Lincoln Park was really bringing the pressure and we felt we needed five guards to handle the ball,” Blundo said of his team’s late rally. “Every opportunity we had to get five guards out there we did, and I thought we were able to get ourselves some clean looks because of it.”

Cummings’ 3-pointer with 1:18 to go in the game got the Leopards to within six, 67-61, but inside hoops from brothers Drew and Stew Allen down the stretch sealed the win for the ’Canes.

“It’s a great win,” Richards said. “They’re a great team. We have nothing but respect for them. It’s nice to get a win against a good team. They’re the No. 1 team in single-A. We love to compete. We love those games where we have to grind it out. We got out with a win tonight.”

Cummings and Rowan paced Lincoln Park with 16 points apiece. Antonio Kellem added 13 points and Minnie chipped in with 12. Rowan and Minnie were the Leopards’ all-tournament selections.

“I thought they made some great shots; heavily contested shots, 16-, 17-footers, in the lane, on the baseline,” Blundo said of Lincoln Park. “We made them work for everything and they made shots. That’s to their credit.”

New Castle will return to Section 3 play Friday when it hosts Seneca Valley.

“To be honest, I had a feeling it was going to be a close game,” Hooker said. “Lincoln Park is a very good team. Down the road, this will help because we’ve still got Hampton and North Allegheny, and I’m pretty sure those will be close games, too.”
Game Scoreboard
New Castle 20 15 13 23 0 71
Lincoln Park 10 13 21 19 0 63
Box Scores
Antonio Kellem 6 1-2 13
Renell Cummings 6 2-2 16
Ryan Skovranko 2 0-0 4
Maverick Rowan 6 4-5 16
Elijah Minnie 5 1-1 12
Chris Pipkin 1 0-1 2.
Totals: 26 8-11 63.

Drew Allen 2 0-1 5
Jake McPhatter 1 0-2 3
Anthony Richards 6 1-1 18
Malik Hooker 9 4-7 22
Stew Allen 7 2-3 16
Robert Natale1 0-0 3
Micah Fulena 0 0-0 0
Levar Ware 2 0-0 4.
Totals: 28 7-14 71.
LINCOLN PARK 10 13 21 19 — 63
NEW CASTLE 20 15 13 23 — 71
3-point goals — Lincoln Park 3 (Cummings 2, Minnie 1), New Castle 8 (Richards 5, D. Allen 1, McPhatter 1, Natale 1).

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