’Canes crush Shaler; NA up next
New Castle (75) Vs. Shaler (28)
By Joe Sager
New Castle News
SHALER TOWNSHIP — The Red Hurricane is on red alert.
The “easy” part of its WPIAL Section 3-AAAA schedule is done.
New Castle cruised past Shaler, 75-28, last night to set the stage for a crucial two-game set against North Allegheny (at home tomorrow) and Hampton (on the road Tuesday) to wrap up the first half of section play.
Like last year, when the Tigers, Talbots and ’Canes all reached the WPIAL semifinals, they entered this part of the schedule undefeated. Hampton (5-0 section, 11-0 overall) edged North Allegheny (4-1, 10-1), 62-61, in overtime last night to remain atop the standings with New Castle (5-0, 10-0).
“North Allegheny is one heck of a basketball team,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “We’ll have our hands full (tomorrow) night, regardless of what happened in their game against Hampton.”
Poor weather delayed last night’s game, originally slated for Tuesday, by a day, which disrupted the ’Canes’ normal preparation for the showdown with the Tigers. However, New Castle was able to start that work ahead of time.
“Playing this game (last night) gave us only one day to prepare for North Allegheny. We did some things the two previous days, which is uncharacteristic of us,” Blundo said. “We knew that Shaler was rebuilding. It should be a great game (tomorrow). It’ll be great for our kids and our community to have that opportunity to play in that atmosphere.”
The ’Canes attacked the Titans (0-4, 2-10) immediately and grabbed a 10-0 lead. New Castle poured it on in the first quarter. Malik Hooker scored 10 of his game-high 19 points in the frame. At one point early in the second frame, Hooker had as many points off slam dunks (8) as Shaler’s entire team had produced.
“We can’t come out slow,” said New Castle’s Drew Allen, who had 13 points. “We made it our focus to come out strong and play our best.”
The ’Canes limited the Titans to one field goal in the second quarter and posted a 46-14 halftime lead. The game reached the 40-point mercy rule 1:51 into the third quarter when Levar Ware’s free throw gave New Castle a 54-14 advantage. It was the fifth time the ’Canes reached he mercy rule this season.
One of the WPIAL’s top-scoring clubs, New Castle has been exceptionally harsh on section foes. On average, the ’Canes outscored Butler, Pine-Richland, North Hills, Seneca Valley and Shaler by 34 points (83.4-49.4). They know it won’t be that easy against North Allegheny, a team New Castle beat three times last year.
“There is definitely a big target on our back,” Allen said.” They want to get us back from last year and we want to play them again. It’s always a good game between us.”
The ’Canes pushed their section winning streak to 32. New Castle, which has won 66 of its last 68 games overall, extended its regular-season win streak to 52. The squad hopes to add to it tomorrow.
“I know what my guys bring. Even in big wins, at times, I see a bunch of things that we don’t do particularly well,” Blundo said. “Right now, our focus is getting ready for NA.”
Anthony Richards added 17 points for the ’Canes, who played a majority of the game without starting big man Stew Allen. The senior started last night, but left the game early and did not return.
“His back has been bothering him. He has been having some spasms. It got worse in practice (Tuesday). He had some therapy and he felt like he could go,” Blundo said. “He didn’t feel too good, so I pulled him out. He’ll get some therapy and he’ll be ready for (tomorrow).”