'Canes' season comes to an end
New Castle (68) Vs. Bishop McDevitt (77)
By Andrew Koob
New Castle News

ALTOONA — New Castle High boys basketball coach Ralph Blundo looked out among the crowd of red and black.

Gathered around the exit of Altoona Area High School on Friday night, the smattering of players, coaches, cheerleaders and family embraced one another, tears flowing onto the maroon hardwood on the baseline.

The season had just come to an end with a 77-68 defeat at the hands of District 3 champion Bishop McDevitt in the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals.

Yet, even with the dozens of people comforting each other, Blundo couldn't feel anything but pride for his players.

"Standing around, there’s a lot of people crying and whatnot, but I think there are more happy tears than sad tears," Blundo said. "Obviously we’re disappointed we lost, but I don’t think there can be a person in this building that can’t be extraordinarily proud of the young men and the effort they put forth tonight. My heart is filled with joy.”

Marquel Hooker posted 21 points in his final scholastic game, surpassing the 1,000-point plateau in the process. He concluded his high school career with 1,018 career markers. Geno Stone followed with 19 points and Marcus Hooker contributed 12.

New Castle (25-3) dug itself a deep hole early on and was outscored 22-8 with a minute remaining in the first quarter, before five straight points softened the cushion.

The second quarter was no better for the 'Canes, who were outscored 21-14 as the Crusaders (23-6) took a 16-point advantage into the halftime break.

“I think they got to the punch with easy buckets and made two threes right out of the gate," Blundo said. "They shot it well, but we knew their strength was getting to the bucket and rebounding the ball. We focused on being really good with our boxouts and we really weren’t good at all in the first quarter. That’s the harsh reality of it all.”

New Castle found its bearings out of the locker room, going on an 11-2 run out of the third-quarter gate and cutting the Crusaders' lead to just seven points.

The Hooker brothers took over the scoring for most of the quarter, as the duo combined for 12 of the 'Canes' 17 in Period 3.

"When you’re in a state game like this and you jump out against a team that’s well-coached and plays the way that New Castle does," Bishop McDevitt coach Mike Gaffey said, "they’re absolutely going to make a run at us."

The 'Canes struggled to keep McDevitt off of the glass, especially on the offensive end. The Crusaders held a 44-17 rebounding advantage, including a 10-4 edge on the offensive glass.

James Williams led the Crusaders' attack on both the boards and the scoreboard. The 6-foot-4 senior posted game-highs with 35 points, 20 in the first half, along with 24 rebounds.

“Our ball pressure helped in the second half a little bit," Blundo said. "But most of what he got, he got on second opportunities. He did a great job of going to get the ball and sometimes they’re just bigger and better. We were going with a smaller lineup because we wanted to bring him away from the glass.

"I thought we did a better job in the second half, I thought a couple balls just fell right into his hands and he laid it in. The ball didn’t bounce our way when we needed it to.”

Both sides dealt with heavy foul trouble. Bishop McDevitt had two players foul out, while New Castle had one player foul out and four others with four fouls.

A total of 56 fouls were called on both sides.

The loss is the third time in four tries that New Castle has reached the PIAA quarterfinals and failed to reach the semifinals. The one time the 'Canes have broken through to the Final Four was in 2014 when they won the state title.

“It’s hard to get to the next round, it’s hard even to get into the quarterfinals," Blundo said. "You have to be a good basketball team with good players and you have to play well in a big game.

"Credit to McDevitt, they were deep, athletic and kept coming at us. They made it hard for us all night long and we didn’t make enough shots and didn’t get enough stops early."

(Email: AKoob@ncnewsonline.com)
Game Scoreboard
New Castle 13 14 17 24 0 68
Bishop McDevitt 22 21 11 23 0 77
Box Scores
Marquel Hooker 6 9-12 21
Geno Stone 4 10-11 19
Micah Fulena 1 2-4 5
Marcus Hooker 5 2-9 12
Pat Minenok 0 0-0 0
Gino DeMonaco 1 3-4 6
Garrett Farah 2 0-0 5
Brandon Parchman 0 0-0 0
Totals: 19 26-40 68

James Williams 16 3-8 35
Bryce Hall 4 1-2 10
Tim Kater 3 0-0 7
Nick Gemmell 1 2-3 5
Alex Marsico 0 2-2 2
Kobay White 4 10-13 18
Jody Morales 0 0-0 0
Joe Joe Headan 0 0-0 0
Totals: 28 18-28 77

NEW CASTLE 13 14 17 24 — 68
BISHOP MCDEVITT 22 21 11 23 — 77

3-point goals — New Castle 4 (Stone 1, Fulena 1, Farah 1, DeMonaco 1), Bishop McDevitt 3 (Hall 1, Gemmell 1, Kater 1).
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