New Castle boys pull away for PIAA playoff win
New Castle (82) Vs. Meadville (61)
By Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News

EDINBORO — This time, the New Castle High boys basketball team finished the deal.

The Red Hurricane grabbed the lead in the game's early stages and didn't let go, posting an 82-61 PIAA Class AAA first-round victory over Meadville at Edinboro University's McComb Fieldhouse.

It was the first game for New Castle (24-2) since a 79-76 overtime loss to Highlands in the WPIAL semifinals on Feb. 23. The 'Canes were up by 13 points in the third quarter of that contest before foul trouble played a key role in their elimination.

"They were really hungry to get back on the floor, as I was," said sixth-year New Castle coach Ralph Blundo. "I thought we would get after them. We did get after them and I was pleased with that."

New Castle advances to meet Beaver Falls (24-3) in the second round of the state playoffs Tuesday at a time and site to be determined. The Tigers, who advanced with a 57-54 decision over Steel Valley, won the WPIAL championship last week.

The 'Canes own two wins over Beaver Falls in Section 2 play, 75-53 on the road and 60-49 at home.

"They're a great team; they're the WPIAL champs, not us," Blundo said of Beaver Falls. "We're looking forward to it."

New Castle trailed just once at 4-2. But they went on a 10-0 run over a span of just 95 seconds to build a 12-4 advantage and they never looked back.

"We executed really well early on and got a couple of easy layups to get us going," Blundo said. "We were able to stretch it out."

The 'Canes capitalized on the Bulldogs' mistakes in the first quarter. Meadville turned the ball over 26 times for the game, including 10 times in the opening period as New Castle raced to a 22-9 margin.

"We just brought some good intensity," Blundo said. "I still think that we have to be better defensively if we want to get where we want to go."

Despite the strong first quarter, Blundo found something that didn't please him as the team went to the locker room. The 'Canes led 43-28 at the break, but allowed 19 points in the second stanza.

"I wasn't real happy with the second quarter," Blundo said. "Nineteen points in the second quarter is a lot, but that's a credit to them. I thought they made some good plays in the second quarter."

The Bulldogs' Anthoni Boitnott remained on the floor after picking up his third foul with 5:58 to go in the first half. It was a move that proved costly as Boitnott picked up his fourth foul with 1:01 to go before the half.

Boitnott fouled out with 5:23 to go in the third period, finishing with just three points, all on foul shots.

"I don't think Meadville has a lot of depth," Blundo said. "I think that's the case with most high school teams. You lose a starter, there's going to be a dropoff."

Boitnott's early dismissal proved costly because the Bulldogs scored the first six points of the second half while he was on the floor to close to 43-34.

The 'Canes were able to withstand that brief push by Meadville, and then Gino DeMonaco delivered the knockout in the fourth frame.

DeMonaco netted 14 points in the fourth quarter as New Castle pulled away for the win, leading by double figures the rest of the way. He finished with a game-high 27 points off the bench on 10-of-15 shooting.

It was DeMonaco's first extended action since injuring his right foot on Feb. 2 against Beaver Falls. He played limited minutes against Highlands.

"When you get called upon, you have to do what you have to do," DeMonaco said. "I definitely felt good tonight. My foot is finally getting back to where it's supposed to be. My shot is getting there. I've been shooting extra and extra every day."

DeMonaco netted 10 points in the second quarter, but he wasn't quite satisfied with his performance in the first half.

"Mostly I was feeling good in the second half," he said. "I started off a little bit slow. I made an adjustment at halftime.

"I thought to myself, am I leaning, am I fading away, am I doing that? Then I made the adjustment at halftime and I came out and shot some shots before the third quarter started and I felt good after that."

DeMonaco found his sweet spot in the final frame, deep in the left corner in the fourth quarter and he was lethal from there. Seven of his 10 field goals were from behind the arc.

"Gino is a great three-point shooter," Blundo said. "He shot the ball great. He got opportunities and he made them."

Marquel Hooker, a senior, chipped in 25 points for the 'Canes on 9-of-15 shooting. He added team highs of nine rebounds and eight steals, while contributing five assists. Marcus Hooker, Marquel's younger brother, was next with 15 points and eight boards.

Micah Fulena handed out a game-best 14 assists to go with his six markers.

Jason Clune collected 15 points to lead Meadville.

Game Scoreboard
New Castle 22 21 18 21 0 82
Meadville 9 19 14 19 0 61
Box Scores
Marquel Hooker 9 5-8 25
Geno Stone 1 2-2 4
Micah Fulena 1 4-4 6
Pat Minenok 2 0-0 4
Te'Quawn Stewart 0 0-0 0
Marcus Hooker 4 7-10 15
Gino DeMonaco 10 0-0 27
Lorenzo Gardner 0 1-2 1
Garrett Farah 0 0-4 0
Brandon Parchman 0 0-0 0
Chris Dorman 0 0-0 0
Georgie Eggleston 0 0-0 0
Totals: 27 19-30 82

Anthoni Boitnott 0 3-4 3
LaShon Lindsey 5 0-0 11
Armoni Foster 5 3-10 13
Jason Clune 4 5-6 15
Roman Pero 4 1-1 12
Isaiah Manning 0 1-2 1
James Mullen 0 0-0 0
Journey Brown 1 1-2 4
DeShawn Wofford 0 0-0 0
Jayson Rhoades 0 0-0 0
Jaden Agnew 0 2-3 2
Jack Stevens 0 0-0 0
Andrew Mook 0 0-0 0
Totals: 19 16-28 61

NEW CASTLE 22 21 18 21 — 82
MEADVILLE 9 19 14 19 — 61

3-point goals — New Castle 9 (DeMonaco 7, Marq. Hooker 2), Meadville 7 (Pero 3, Clune 2, Lindsey 1, Brown 1).
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