’Canes raise banner, drop Hopewell
New Castle (75) Vs. Hopewell (56)
By Joe Sager
New Castle News
New Castle’s past and present were on display last night.

The Red Hurricane revealed its boys state championship banner last night with all seven graduated seniors in attendance. Then, this year’s squad went out and beat Hopewell, 75-56, to remain atop the WPIAL Section 2-AAA standings.

Malik Hooker, Jake McPhatter, Anthony Richards, Drew Allen, Stew Allen, Levar Ware and Tyler Fitzpatrick joined the underclassmen from last year’s undefeated PIAA Class AAAA championship squad for a pregame ceremony. The team’s new banner joined its WPIAL title banner hanging from the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House rafters.

New Castle (4-0 section, 6-1 overall) struggled against the Vikings (0-4, 2-5). The ’Canes carried a 16-15 lead into the second quarter. Hopewell took a 17-16 lead, but New Castle rallied for an 8-0 run to post a 22-17 advantage with 6:01 left in the half.

The Vikings crept within 24-21, but the ’Canes closed the half with a 10-2 run to grab a 34-23 halftime advantage.

New Castle turned up its defensive pressure to start the third quarter. The team rode that momentum as Geno Stone, Marquel Hooker and D’Marcus Blanchard all scored quick buckets before Hopewell’s Nate Bell swished a trey to make it a 40-26 game.

“Coming out of halftime gave us a big boost,” Blanchard said. “We lost the lead in the second, but then we got it right back up, so that was good.”

The ’Canes kept up their intensity and rattled off a 9-0 spree. Hooker’s putback gave New Castle a 49-26 lead with 3:20 left in the frame.

“I thought, defensively to start the third quarter, we came out with an extra hop in our step. But, that’s frustrating to me when I have to say that we came out with an extra hop,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “That extra hop should always be there. That’s been our staple over the years. We’ll continue to work and fix the mistakes that we’re making. That’s all we can do until we hopefully get to where we want to be.”

The ’Canes cooled off a bit for the rest of the quarter and Hopewell marched back with a 12-3 run to trim the deficit to 52-38 at the buzzer. The Vikings got within 10 points, 54-44, with 6:19 to go, but New Castle pulled away for its 45th consecutive section win.

“Sometimes if you play hard, but really not very well, you can get away with it. I think that’s happened. I thought we played pretty hard, but didn’t play particularly well. Some credit goes to Hopewell because they did some good things, too,” Blundo said. “The bottom line is we won the game and we’re 4-0 in the section going into Christmas break and it’s the best position we could be in.”

Seven different ’Canes scored in the final frame to help wrap up the victory.

“Like coach said, we’re going to have bad games and we just kept fighting,” Blanchard said. “When we have bad games, we just have to get down and gritty and keep battling.”

Hooker led New Castle with 20 points, while Stone finished with 15 and Blanchard had 13. Micah Fulena added 11 points and Robert Natale had eight.

Bell led Hopewell with a game-high 23 points.
Game Scoreboard
New Castle 16 18 18 23 0 75
Hopewell 15 8 15 18 0 56
Box Scores
Griffin Curry 2 1-2 5
Nate Bell 7 5-8 23
Bryant Turk 0 2-2 2
Cole Meeker 2 2-2 6
Damon Zuccaro 0 0-0 0
Austin Zuppe 3 9-10 16
Chris Skelton 0 0-3 0
Emmitt Willis 2 0-0 4
Mirko Loncar 0 0-3 0.
Totals: 16 19-30 56.

Marquel Hooker 7 4-4 20
Micah Fulena 4 2-3 11
Robert Natale 3 1-4 8
Pat Minenok 0 0-0 0
D’Marqus Blanchard 4 5-7 13
Marcus Hooker 2 0-2 5
Braeden Robinson 0 0-0 0
Geno Stone 7 0-2 15
Quindel Reed 0 0-0 0
Garrett Farah 0 1-4 1
Bryan Owens 1 0-0 2
Jared DeHass 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 28 13-24 75.
HOPEWELL 15 8 15 18 — 56
NEW CASTLE 16 18 18 23 — 75
3-point goals — Hopewell 5 (Bell 4, Zuppe 1), New Castle 6 (Marq. Hooker 2, Marc. Hooker 1, Stone 1, Fulena 1, Natale 1).
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