New Castle evens record with win
New Castle (63) Vs. Hopewell (50)
By RON PONIEWASZ JR.
The drop in classification already is paying dividends for the New Castle High boys basketball team.
The Red Hurricane held Hopewell scoreless for 6:13 in the opening half en route to a 63-50 decision at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House in the WPIAL Section 2-AAA opener for both schools.
New Castle (1-0 section, 2-2 overall) dropped from Class AAAA after last season. They previously had opted to play up a classification.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt this is where we belong,” ’Canes coach Mark Stanley said. “We know there’s good basketball teams in this section.
“I thought we played well last year in Quad-A. But, we’re Triple-A and we’re where we belong.”
The win gets New Castle off to a positive start in section play after losing the section opener three of the previous four years.
“You want to hold serve at home and that’s what we did,” Stanley said. “It’s big and it’s nice, but there’s a lot of work to do.”
The Vikings (0-1, 2-2) are the defending section champions and lost in the WPIAL title game to section rival Blackhawk.
Tonio Fulena drained a 3-pointer with 3:06 to go in the first quarter to break a 10-10 tie and ignite a 14-0 run. The ’Canes, who never trailed, used the spurt to build a 24-10 buffer with 5:09 to play in the half.
“They played very well throughout the whole game,” Hopewell coach and former Beaver Falls High star Ron Rowan said. “They outplayed us and they out-everythinged us.
“I give New Castle a lot of credit. They completely dominated us in every aspect of the game.”
Defense was pivotal for New Castle, which used a zone throughout a large portion of the run. The ’Canes forced 20 Hopewell turnovers.
“They were getting after our man a little bit so we switched up to a zone and gave them a different zone look,” Stanley said. “We located (Drew) Falletta and that helped; the kids ran it well.”
The ’Canes held a 31-18 halftime lead but let down a bit in the third quarter. The Vikings closed to within 36-30 when Falletta split a pair of foul shots with 2:37 remaining in the stanza.
However, New Castle pushed the lead to 42-33 after three quarters. The ’Canes seemed to pick up their intensity near the halfway point of the fourth frame.
Tyrone Steals went up for a layup and drew contact. but no call was made. Steals missed the basket and Hopewell raced the other way. New Castle’s bench was furious over the no-call, including Stanley, who eventually was hit with a technical foul over the situation with 5:46 to play. It was the ’Canes’ 10th team foul as well.
Kevin Welsh split the technical foul shots to close to 45-36, but New Castle was able to pull away down the stretch. The Vikings got no closer than that margin as the ’Canes sank 17 of 21 from the foul line in the fourth quarter and 26 of 33 for the game.
“If we had lost by a point, I would have felt bad for the kids,” Stanley said. “I didn’t swear at (the officials) or anything.
“Ty got hit and I told them that. I can’t say I didn’t deserve it. The kids picked me up and got the job done. Hopefully they don’t have to feed off a technical every time. I told them to keep playing and I’d worry about the officiating.”
Said Rowan, “I don’t think we were ever in the game. Once we got down, that 14-0 run was the difference.”
Steals led a balanced attack with 15 points and Fulena was next with 12. Fulena came up clutch in the fourth quarter, sinking 7 of 8 from the foul line.
“Overall, we just played together and we shared the wealth,” Fulena said. “They kept fouling me. I wanted the ball and I was knocking them down.”
Welsh and Falletta tallied 15 points apiece to lead the Vikings.
New Castle returns to section action at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Ambridge.