New Castle rolls past McGuffey in WPIAL Class 4A
New Castle (73) Vs. McGuffey (40)
By Shawn Fox
New Castle News
AMBRIDGE — New Castle High’s boys basketball team was in a bit of jeopardy of falling victim to Cinderella McGuffey at halftime of Saturday afternoon’s game.
In the second half, the clock struck midnight for the Highlanders.
The Red Hurricane broke open a two-point game by outscoring McGuffey, 29-3, in the third quarter en route to a 73-40 victory in the WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinals at Ambridge High School.
“When we came into the lockerroom, coach talked about wanting us to give more than we did in the first half,” New Castle junior Marcus Hooker said. “That’s what we came out and tried to do in the second half. We just wanted it more than they did. We’ve been preparing for this for a long time. So, we just put it all on the court today and got it done.”
With the win, top-seeded New Castle improved to 21-2 and will make its seventh straight trip to the WPIAL semifinals. There, the ‘Canes will face fourth-seeded Central Valley (14-9) at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday at Ambridge. The Warriors advanced Saturday with a 56-35 victory over fifth-seeded Belle Vernon.
New Castle owns a pair of regular-season victories over the Section 2 foe Warriors, posting a 63-49 road win on Dec. 20 and a 63-39 home triumph on Jan. 20.
“It’s never easy to play a team that’s as well coached as Central Valley is three times,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “As always when we play them, we expect a great basketball game.”
The 'Canes blitzed the No. 8 Highlanders (18-6) right out of the gate, opening up a quick 11-0 lead on 3-pointers from Hooker and Geno Stone, a pair of Hooker layups and a Garrett Farah free throw.
"We have some guys who can really shoot it," said Blundo of his team, which made 11 3-pointers in the contest. "We got some opportunities and when we got them, we put them in."
Hooker reached the 1,000 career point mark. The junior guard finished with a game-high 26 points and now has 1,022 points for his 'Canes career.
“I was just focused on finishing,” Hooker said.
McGuffey, which won the program’s first-ever playoff game Wednesday with a 50-48 victory over Valley at Baldwin High School, was able to trim the deficit to four points, 13-9, later in the stanza, before New Castle held a 6-2 edge over the final 3:54 to take a 19-11 lead after one.
A Hooker trey from the right corner opened the second quarter and got the ‘Canes' lead back to double figures. But the Highlanders answered, as nine straight points by Trent Belleville made it a two-point game, 22-20, with 3:59 remaining before the half.
“McGuffey was just getting a lot of rebounds in the first half,” Hooker said. “They were beating us on the boards. We knew we had to come out in the second half and get more rebounds than them.”
McGuffey twice tied the game down the stretch, but Hooker’s lay-in with 30.7 remaining gave New Castle a 27-25 lead at the break.
The second half was all ‘Canes.
The second-half storm began with 3-pointers by Stone and Gino DeMonaco, followed by a DeMonaco layup off a steal. Hooker then scored nine straight points. Threes from Stone and DeMonaco followed, giving New Castle a 50-27 lead and forcing McGuffey to call a timeout.
“I don’t think we played poorly in the first half,” Blundo said. “I just thought McGuffey played really well. We were able to do some things in the second half. We ramped up our pressure a little bit. We took some chances on defense that we normally wouldn’t take that didn't hurt us on the back end.”
Three-pointers by Stone and DeMonaco sandwiched around a David Chapman free throw gave the ‘Canes a 56-28 lead after three quarters.
New Castle, which forced 29 McGuffey turnovers in the game, held a 17-12 edge in the final stanza to seal the victory and punch its ticket to the semifinals.
“We’ve got to keep preparing and come out next time and play harder,” Hooker said.
Stone finished with 18 points on six 3-pointers. DeMonaco added 16 points, including four triples.
Belleville paced the Highlanders with 19 points.