New Castle begins quest for WPIAL crown
New Castle (78) Vs. Montour (39)
By Joe Sager
New Castle News

AMBRIDGE — Losses don’t sit well with the New Castle High boys basketball team.

The Red Hurricane had to wait over a week to shake its Feb. 8 setback at Taylor Allderdice to close the regular season. New Castle did it in style Wednesday as it stormed past Montour 78-39 in a WPIAL Class AAA first-round playoff battle at Ambridge.

“Our guys are pretty proud and they wanted to get back out there,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “I thought they really played hard and that was the difference.”

The loss to the Dragons was unique in that it came at the conclusion of the regular season, which left the team eager to get back in game mode. Practices and scrimmages leading up to the playoff opener did not satisfy the team’s hunger.

“We prepared hard. We were in the gym and working,” said New Castle’s Marquel Hooker, who led all scorers with 22 points. “We left that loss behind us, but we built upon it and came out and showed that. It was nice to come out and play a game like this.”

The ‘Canes (22-1) took control early. After the Spartans (13-9) tallied the first bucket, Hooker drained a pair of treys, which ignited the offense. The squad posted a 17-9 edge after the first quarter.

New Castle’s defensive pressure took over in the second quarter. The ‘Canes suffocated Montour in the frame and went on a 17-2 run.

“We knew that if we came out and put on the pressure that the Hurricanes do, we’d get the win like we did,” Hooker said.

New Castle forced the Spartans into 22 turnovers in the first half as the team built a 38-16 lead at intermission.

“Our pressure was really good tonight, I thought,” Blundo said. “We rotated well and closed our traps really well. We trapped fundamentally right.”

The ‘Canes began the third with a 15-0 march to take a 53-16 advantage. Marcus Hooker’s bucket gave New Castle a 58-18 margin with 1:44 left in the third. It enacted the 40-point running clock mercy rule as well.

With the starters on the bench for the fourth quarter, New Castle closed out the 39-point win. Geno Stone added 14 points, while Marcus Hooker had 10. Pat Minenok, Garrett Farah and George Eggleston all finished with eight points.
The ‘Canes meet West Allegheny (11-10), a 64-61 winner over Ambridge, on Friday in the second round.

“Everyone feels like the first one is a tough one because of the pressure that goes with it since it’s an elimination game, so it was nice to get this one,” Blundo said.
Game Scoreboard
New Castle 17 21 26 14 0 78
Montour 9 7 6 17 0 39
Box Scores
Cam Colliers 2 0-0 4
Mike Mastroianni 1 0-0 3
Caleb Bryan 4 5-5 13
Mike Butter 3 0-0 7
Jared Crawford 1 0-0 2
Ronnie Stevenson 1 0-0 2
Dom Sleva 1 1-2 3
Matt Slesinger 2 0-0 5
Totals: 15 6-7 39

Marquel Hooker 8 3-4 22
Geno Stone 6 0-0 14
Micah Fulena 0 2-2 2
Marcus Hooker 4 1-6 10
Pat Minenok 2 4-5 8
Garrett Farah 3 0-0 8
Lorenzo Gardner 2 0-0 4
Brandon Parchman 1 0-0 2
George Eggleston 4 0-0 8
Totals: 30 10-17 78

MONTOUR 9 7 6 17 — 39
NEW CASTLE 17 21 26 14 — 78

3-point goals — Montour 3 (Mastroianni 1, Butter 1, Slesinger 1), New Castle 8 (Marq. Hooker 3, Stone 2, Farah 2, Marc. Hooker 1).
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