New Castle boys rout Central Valley to sew up play
New Castle (74) Vs. Central Valley (42)
By Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News
The New Castle High boys basketball team is heading back to the postseason.
Four Red Hurricane players scored in double figures Tuesday night in a 74-42 WPIAL Section 2-AAA win over Central Valley at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House. The victory secured a district playoff berth for the eighth straight season for New Castle.
But sixth-year 'Canes coach Ralph Blundo and his squad takes the clinching in stride.
"We have to get better in practice tomorrow (Wednesday). That's it," Blundo said. "We don't look much at what other people are doing.
"We don't have any goals. We won't even talk about it (the playoff clinching). We just have to keep plugging."
The 'Canes (9-0 section, 16-0 overall) are ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL in Class AAA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and No. 4 in the state by the Patriot-News of Harrisburg. They needed a win last night, coupled with either a Blackhawk loss or an Ambridge loss to sew up the playoff berth.
The Bridgers outlasted Ellwood City Lincoln (68-62), but New Castle locked up the playoff bid when the Cougars were routed by Beaver Falls, 70-42.
Marquel Hooker netted a game-best 21 points for the 'Canes on 9-of-13 shooting with five rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Gino DeMonaco came off the bench to deliver 17 markers on 6-of-7 shooting for the hosts.
"I felt very comfortable tonight. I just think getting more shots in and more extra reps and holding my follow through was important," DeMonaco said. "Doing the little things right, like doing the fundamental stuff right like not fading away, not leaning to the side. Being focused, playing relaxed and not stiff."
The 17 points for DeMonaco, who transferred back to New Castle this year after attending West Middlesex for a year, are a season high. It's also the fifth time this year he's hit double figures.
"Different games, different matchups call for different things," Blundo said. "To Gino's credit, when his name was called he stepped up and made plays."
Marcus Hooker, Marquel's younger brother, chipped in 15 points with 10 rebounds and four assists. Geno Stone tossed in 10 tallies to go along with three rebounds, three assists and three steals.
"Both Marcus and Marquel are playing really good basketball right now," Blundo said. "I'm pleased with where our team is right now. I just think we have to continue to get better."
The 'Canes, who never trailed, led 20-4 with 2:08 to go in the first quarter and settled for a 22-7 advantage after one period. New Castle forced the Warriors (4-5, 8-8) into six first-quarter turnovers.
"We played hard gun to gun," Blundo said. "Getting after it defensively is what we try to do. When you play the way we play, you have to play really, really hard. But you have to be smart and I thought we were both tonight."
The 'Canes continued to roll in the second stanza. New Castle, holding the half's final possession, worked the ball around and found an open DeMonaco, who buried a 3-pointer with four seconds left to send the hosts into the half with a 47-21 advantage.
"I just thought it was about getting open and creating gaps," DeMonaco said. "Marquel would drive and they were double-teaming him. I just wanted to be in the open area."
Said Blundo of DeMonaco's bucket, "That was something that we thought we could get. Marquel really made a good fundamental play there to get the ball to Gino and he was wide open and he knocked it down."
New Castle led 66-33 after three quarters and held its largest lead of 39 twice, the last coming with 5:46 remaining.
Terry Woods tossed in 14 points to lead Central Valley. Eight of his markers came in the fourth quarter, starting with his first of four field goals with 6:02 to go.
Prior to the game, a sportsmanship message was read to the fans and the players were introduced one from the visitors and then one from the home squad with each player greeting each other at half court to wish them luck. It was the first varsity meeting between New Castle and Central Valley at New Castle since the football brawl between the schools Oct. 9 at Taggart Stadium.
"(Central Valley) coach (Brandon) Ambrose and I have a great relationship," Blundo said. "He's probably my closest friend in the coaching ranks. And his players reflect his personality.
"They play hard, but never malicious in any way. Certainly we pride ourself in doing the same thing. What happened that night was a fluke. It was an emotional thing that just got out of hand. It'll never happen again."