A new No. 1?
New Castle (75) Vs. Beaver Falls (53)
By Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News

BEAVER FALLS — It was one of the showdowns of the year in the WPIAL, and no time for New Castle's rebounding and shooting to get off to a slow start.

But when the Red Hurricane turned it around in the second half Friday night, Beaver Falls simply could not fight back.

New Castle outrebounded the Tigers by 11 in the second and shot 64.7 percent in the final 16 minutes to regroup for a 75-53 WPIAL Section 2-AAA road win over Beaver Falls.

The 'Canes came into the game ranked No. 3 in the WPIAL Class AAA ranks and the Tigers were No. 1, something that surely will change when the rankings are updated next week. Mars is currently No. 2.

The win avenges three losses last season by the 'Canes (6-0 section, 13-0 overall) to the Tigers (5-1, 11-2).

"It was a big win for us. It was a big section win on the road. To beat Beaver Falls, which was undefeated in our league last year with a number of really good younger players returning, it was just a big win to have on the road," New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. "It gives us a little bit of an advantage. Now we have them at home (next month)."

The 'Canes were outrebounded in the first half, 24-13, which created a 25-13 deficit with 4:23 to go in the opening half. Blundo knew that stat had to improve.

"If they absolutely murder us on the boards, we'd have a really tough time winning the game. That's their strength," Blundo said. "They did a great job on the boards. I think later as the game went on, we continued to get better. We got a bunch of rebounds in the second half."

New Castle quickly turned things around with a 14-2 run to cap the half and knot the count at 27.

"We kept our heads because coach said before the game there's going to be some ups and downs so just keep playing and keep grinding," 'Canes senior Marquel Hooker said. "I knew my teammates would keep playing and keep digging."

Hooker finished the first half with just six points and New Castle was 8 of 27 from the floor collectively for the first 16 minutes. Marquel Hooker and his younger brother Marcus both picked up two quick first-quarter fouls and played carefully the rest of the half.

"It was a spirited locker room at halftime in terms of challenging each other to be better," Blundo said. "I think that once we got more comfortable with our foul situation based on what time it was in the game, we can pressure a lot more and it was much better in the second half."

The 'Canes scored the first seven points of the second half and dominated the action the rest of the way. New Castle finished 30 of 61 from the field and tied Beaver Falls in rebounding with 34 apiece.

"I told them the rebounding had to be better," Blundo said. "I told them we're getting slaughtered They're just going to keep shooting until they make it.

"It was more of Beaver Falls just doing a great job (in the first half). Our guys were down there fighting, but sometimes it didn't matter."

Tigers coach Doug Biega was stumped with his team's second-half struggles.

"I saw them all rebounding. They rebounded as a team," he said of New Castle. "I thought we did too. I didn't fault our effort. I faulted our execution.

"Maybe our effort in the beginning of the third quarter was bad. I don't know how you fix that. What do you do to make kids come out and play harder in the third quarter? Do you need a pep talk to come out and play harder against New Castle? I wouldn't think so."

The 'Canes pushed their buffer to 49-33 with 2:43 to go in the third quarter and held a 53-43 lead after three.

Marquel Hooker, who finished with a game-high 27 points, netted 13 of his tallies in the third quarter. He was 12 of 22 from the field for the game with five rebounds, five steals and four assists.

"We kept our heads because coach said before the game there's going to be some ups and downs so just keep playing and keep grinding," Marquel said. "I knew my teammates would keep playing and keep digging."

Said Biega of Marquel's effort, "Marquel played great. He's an elite athlete."

Micah Fulena hit two big buckets in the early stages of the fourth quarter to help New Castle maintain control. Beaver Falls opened the final frame with a bucket to close the deficit to 53-45. But Fulena penetrated the lane and made a pair of field goals in the paint to push the 'Canes' lead to 57-45 with 4:30 remaining.

"Micah made a couple of aggressive drives," Blundo said. "He works hard at it. That's why he finishes. I really believe that kids who deserve to make big plays in big moments do because they put the time in and they earn it."

Marcus Hooker chipped in 11 points for the 'Canes and Geno Stone supplied 11.

Josh Creach paced the Tigers with 17 tallies.

New Castle returns to action at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday when it hosts Ellwood City Lincoln (3-3, 7-6) in a section matchup.

(Email: rponiewasz@ncnewsonline.com)
Game Scoreboard
New Castle 11 16 26 22 0 75
Beaver Falls 17 10 16 10 0 53
Box Scores
Marquel Hooker 12 0-0 27
Geno Stone 4 3-6 11
Micah Fulena 4 0-2 8
Pat Minenok 2 2-5 6
Te'Quawn Stewart 0 0-0 0
Marcus Hooker 5 1-4 13
Gino DeMonaco 1 0-2 2
Lorenzo Gardner 0 0-0 0
Georgie Eggleston 0 0-0 0
Garrett Farah 1 3-5 5
Brandon Parchman 0 0-0 0
John Brown 1 0-0 3
Totals: 30 9-24 75

Donovan Jeter 4 8-9 16
Josh Creach 8 1-1 17
Torian Leak 0 0-2 0
Syron Noyes 4 1-2 10
Malik Shepherd 2 0-2 4
Bryce Stratti 1 3-4 6
P.J. Solomon 0 0-0 0
Adam Brady 0 0-0 0
Denzel Conkle 0 0-0 0
Totals: 19 13-20 53.

NEW CASTLE 11 16 26 22 — 75
BEAVER FALLS 17 10 16 10 — 53

3-point goals — New Castle 4 (Marq. Hooker 1, Marc. Hooker 2, Brown 1), Beaver Falls 2 (Stratti 1, Noyes 1).
JV score: Beaver Falls 52, New Castle 49. High scorers: NC — Carrington Smith 12.
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