Short-handed 'Canes defeat Beaver Falls
New Castle (68) Vs. Beaver Falls (59)
By Joe Sager
New Castle News
BEAVER FALLS — The New Castle High boys basketball team spent the weekend in survival mode.
The Red Hurricane emerged unbeaten on the year.
Short-handed for the second-straight night, New Castle held on to beat Beaver Falls, 68-59, Saturday in the Coaches vs. Cancer Clash of the Titans at Geneva College’s Metheny Fieldhouse.
Once again, the ’Canes (17-0) played without two starters. Jake McPhatter, who verbally committed to Ball State for football, was on an official visit to the campus, while Stew Allen missed his fifth game with a back injury. Both players missed Friday’s 62-44 win at North Hills as well. They are expected to participate in practice today.
“Going into this weekend, our goal was to survive,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “Losing two starters, we lost a significant amount of depth. Our motto was to keep chopping wood, get two wins, get through the weekend and then we’ll have a full complement of players back on Monday and we’ll go back to work.”
New Castle is ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL in Class AAAA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and No. 2 in the state by the Patriot-News of Harrisburg. The ’Canes, the two-time defending WPIAL champions, have won 73 of their last 75 games overall and extended their regular-season win streak to 63.
“We just wanted to finish this week out strong and then get back playing with those guys,” New Castle’s Drew Allen said, who is Stew’s brother. “We were feeling OK. That’s why we do all the running in the offseason, so we could keep playing hard. We had some guys come off the bench, too.”
The Tigers (14-4), the defending PIAA Class AA champs, were down a man, too. Senior standout Elijah Cottrill missed his fifth-straight game with a knee injury. He helped guide the team to back-to-back WPIAL championships.
“They are the defending state champions. I thought they played well. They made some tough shots and did some good things. They played good basketball,” Blundo said. “We didn’t play poorly, but we didn’t shoot it great from the perimeter.”
Beaver Falls started three freshmen and veteran New Castle posted a 25-12 lead after the first quarter. Trailing, 7-6, the ’Canes embarked on a 9-0 run. Drew Allen started it with a 3-pointer. Levar Ware added a bucket. Three quick turnovers produced buckets from Robert Natale and Drew Allen to cap the spree. Micah Fulena provided the exclamation point at the buzzer when he swished a long-range desperation 3-pointer.
“Beaver Falls is always good,” Drew Allen said. “It’s always a good game when New Castle and Beaver Falls play. We knew we had to come out and play strong and keep playing because they have a lot of good players.”
New Castle posted a 40-28 halftime lead. Beaver Falls cut the deficit to 41-33 with 6:16 left in the third quarter. However, Malik Hooker’s slam dunk off a missed shot brought the crowd to its feet and energized the ’Canes. They went on an 8-0 run to push the lead to 16 points, 49-33, with 4:36 left in the frame.
“It got us going and we stretched the lead back up 16,” Blundo said. “To their credit, they never went away and I didn’t expect them to because it’s Beaver Falls. They are a proud group and tough kids and good basketball players. We came in here to win the basketball game and it didn’t matter by how many.”
New Castle’s lead peaked at 18 points, 54-36, late in the third, but the Tigers made a charge in the fourth quarter, but could not overcome the ’Canes. Hooker made sure of that. He tallied all six of New Castle’s field goals in the final frame for 12 of his game-high 33 points.
“We knew they were going to keep coming,” Drew Allen said. “It was up to us to just keep playing hard and getting some stops.”
Drew Allen finished with 14 points, eight assists and seven rebounds for the ’Canes. Hooker added 14 rebounds, four steals and three blocks. Ware had seven points.
Josh Creach paced Beaver Falls with 20 points. Dan Stratton had 13 and Donovan Jeter added 12.