New Castle caps perfect regular season with rout
New Castle (58) Vs. Central Valley (43)
By Joe Sager
New Castle News

Normally, New Castle’s players can’t wait to get out on the floor.

Last night was a different story, though, for the Red Hurricane. It marked the final game at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House for the team’s six seniors and they wanted to savor every second.

They made it a memorable evening with a 58-43 nonsection triumph over Central Valley to wrap up New Castle’s third-straight undefeated regular season.

“Going unbeaten during the regular season three years in a row just doesn’t happen. People ask me how it happened and I don’t know? We just worked really, really hard and we tried to be a day-by-day type of a team, where we were focusing on what was important at that time and whatever we were doing at the moment,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “I just happened to have a group of guys that really bought into that. This was tough for me. Four years in that lockerroom and we’re not going to do it again … but, we’ve been blessed.”

The emotions were flowing for ’Canes seniors Drew Allen, Stew Allen, Malik Hooker, Jake McPhatter, Anthony Richards and Levar Ware.

“It kills me to have played my last game here. When you’re a little kid, you look up to playing on this court. Now, it’s over,” Richards said. “I’d like to say we look at every game the same way, but this game was different. When Coach Blundo was talking to us before the game, you didn’t want that speech to end. You didn’t way layup lines to end. You didn’t want the national anthem to end. You didn’t want the game to end. Usually, you’re excited for the game and ready to get going, but tonight was just one of those nights where you didn’t want anything to end.”

The ’Canes (22-0) are 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 team ran its home winning streak to 35. The ’Canes, who have won 78 of their last 80 games, extended their regular-season win streak to 68.

“It’s far from easy. We tell people that all the time. What appears easy is not easy. You have to work extraordinarily hard with the style that we play to be successful. Our guys have done it,” Blundo said. “They’ve bought into that high level of intensity and realize that’s the only way to play to be successful. They’ve done it; I didn’t do it. I am so, so proud of them and I am blessed to have had the opportunity to coach them.”

Overall, this senior group has produced some impressive records: 98-10 (overall, so far) 82-6 (regular season), 50-2 (section) and 41-2 (home).

“It’s incredible going 22-0 three years in a row. There’s not a better place to do it than New Castle,” Richards said. “We have been playing together since we were in fourth grade. I have Coach Blundo, who is like another father to me, and I have my dad as a coach on the bench. It doesn’t get any better than that. All the other coaches on this staff are awesome. I love all those guys and I love my teammates and I am excited for this playoff run.

“We’re blessed. We’re fortunate. We have great coaches and teammates. When you’re with a great group of guys, it just makes it so much more fun. I am so proud to be a Red Hurricane and I always will be.”

The Warriors (18-2), ranked No. 2 in WPIAL Class AAA by the Post-Gazette, posed a strong test to New Castle, which closed the season with quality triumphs over North Allegheny, Hampton and Central Valley.

“Going into the North Allegheny game, those teams’ combined records were 51-6,” Blundo said. “Honestly, that first half tonight might have been the best first half of basketball we’ve ever played on this floor. We were tearing the paint off the floor. The intensity was through the roof. I thought we coasted a bit in the second half, but we’ll let them off the hook tonight.”

The ’Canes bolted to a 22-2 lead in the first quarter and cruised to a 34-11 halftime advantage. Hooker, who led all scorers with 16 points, had more points (12) than the Warriors at that point.  

Richards finished with 11 points. He dialed in from long distance three times to give him 81 3-pointers this year. He needs six more to surpass Eddie Pagley’s single-season record set in the 1998-99 campaign. The brothers tandem of Drew and Stew Allen both finished with nine points.

New Castle’s senior group produced half of the six undefeated seasons in program history. The others came in 1929-30 (18-0), 1930-31 (17-0) and 2001-02 (24-0).

“To be honest, you can just sum it up as one great journey. We’ve been playing together for so long,” Hooker said. “Since we were little, we imagined being one of the best teams out there and winning a WPIAL championship. We’ve done that, but we want to keep winning because you only get so many games in your high school career, so you want to make the most of it.”

The ’Canes turn their attention to the postseason and their attempt to win a third-straight WPIAL championship. They learn their first opponent tonight when the playoff brackets are revealed.

“It’s an exciting time of the year,” Blundo said. “We have a tough road ahead of us. Certainly, we know what we want to accomplish. Right now, we’ll find out who we play and we’ll prepare. After that, it’s one practice and one game at a time.” 
Game Scoreboard
New Castle 26 8 10 14 0 58
Central Valley 7 4 12 20 0 43
Box Scores
John George 2 0-0 4
Jacob St. George 2 0-0 5
Tony Gates 0 0-0 0
Brian Kolich 1 0-0 3
Michael Sims 2 4-4 9
Chris Anastas 2 0-0 4
B.J. Powell 2 0-2 4
Matt Kline 7 0-2 14.
Totals: 18 4-8 43.

Micah Fulena 0 0-0 0
Anthony Richards 4 0-0 11
Malik Hooker 5 6-10 16
Jake McPhatter 2 0-0 4
Stew Allen 3 3-4 9
Drew Allen 4 1-4 9
Levar Ware 3 1-2 7
Robert Natale 0 0-0 0
Gino DeMonaco 0 0-0 0
Marquel Hooker 0 0-0 0
Pat Minenok 1 0-0 2.
Totals: 22 11-20 58.
CENTRAL VALLEY 7 4 12 20 — 43
NEW CASTLE 26 8 10 14 — 58
3-point goals — Central Valley 3 (St. George 1, Sims 1, Kolich 1), New Castle 3 (Richards 3).
JV score: New Castle 54, Central Valley 47 (OT). High scorer: NC — Marquel Hooker 17, Micah Fulena 10.
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