’Canes edge Center in thriller
New Castle (58) Vs. Center (57)

The New Castle High boys basketball team needed a hero last night.

Mike Cox came to the rescue.

Cox buried a field goal in the lane with 10.2 seconds left to give the Red Hurricane a 58-57 victory over Center in a WPIAL Section 2-AAA contest at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House.

“We wanted to do like a pick to get Mike loose,” New Castle coach Mark Stanley said. “I figured Mike would either take it to the hole and get a foul or get somebody else a good look — he usually makes good decisions with the basketball. He was able to get a good look.

“A win is a win and we’ll take it, but we need to get better.”

Damon Cotton had a chance to give the Trojans a three-point lead, but he missed two free throws with 26 seconds to play. New Castle (3-2 section, 7-5 overall) tracked down the rebound and Stanley called his team’s final time-out with 16.6 remaining.

Cox worked his way free and launched the game-winning shot from the paint and it drew all net.

“Coach said to come off the screen and find an opening,” Cox said of the instructions during the time-out. “I asked (Stanley) if he wanted to play for the last shot and he said no. He wanted to get in and get out in case we didn’t make the shot.”

Center coach Mark Jula said, “We didn’t know who it was going to be, but we knew somebody was going to drive. I knew (Tonio) Fulena beat North Allegheny at the buzzer.

“I told them Fulena might be the guy, but he fouled out. Give Cox credit, he found a way to get in there. I was kind of disappointed; you have to gut-check it at that point and find a way to deny it.”

Center (2-2, 5-5) was out of time-outs and had to push the ball up the floor. With three seconds to play Cotton got off a shot that was just off the rim and Lukas Turnley’s follow at the buzzer rolled off as the ’Canes survived.

“In the huddle, we said no celebration if it goes; get back and play defense,” Stanley said. “I thought we did a good job of that. We were fortunate to hold on.”

It appeared there would be no need for late-game heroics after New Castle built a 41-28 lead with 6:28 left in the third frame. However, the Trojans closed the quarter on a 17-7 run to get within 48-45.

“We started turning it over and missing shots,” Stanley said. “We weren’t able to get into our press.

“They were able to get some looks and they knocked them down. Before you know it, they’re back in the game.”

Center continued the run and took its first lead since early in the game, 49-48, when Cotton connected on a field goal with 5:34 to go.

“I think they may have got a little tired,” Jula said. “We got to the basket a little easier in the second half, we made some 3s and defended better.
“They weren’t getting the easy looks like they got in the first half.”

Cotton broke a 52-all deadlock on a bucket with 3:06 left and Preston Dawson split a pair of foul shots with 1:53 remaining for a 55-52 advantage.

New Castle’s Rodney Parchman came through in the clutch, cashing in a field goal with 1:38 left to close to 55-54. Cotton buried two foul shots with 1:03 to play to give Center a 57-54 lead. The ’Canes got a steal and Parchman sank a pair of crucial foul shots with 44.6 to go to trail 57-56.

Jula was hit with a warning from the officials in the game’s early stages for being out of the coaching box. He was making his first trip to the Field House since 2001 when he coached North Allegheny.

Jula coached Butler for six years before going to North Allegheny for eight and battling the ’Canes in WPIAL Section 3-AAAA.

“It’s always fun coming here,” Jula said. “People take it serious and it’s a great atmosphere.

“All of our games here were intense. It’s truly what high school athletics is all about.”

Nick Klein paced New Castle with 17 points, 10 in the first quarter. Tyrone Steals, Fulena and Cox all chipped in with nine markers apiece.

“Nick’s been playing great,” Stanley said. “He’s giving us an offensive presence.”

Cotton led all scorers with 26 points, 18 in the second half when Center was mounting its comeback.

“Cotton ran off a couple screens and they threw some alley oops to him,” Cox said. “They had a lot of plays to get him open and he took advantage of it.”

New Castle returns to action at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Mars for a nonsection game.
Game Scoreboard
New Castle 18 15 15 10 0 58
Center 13 11 21 12 0 57
Box Scores
Rob Nohe 2 0-0 5
Lukas Turnley 4 0-0 8
Damon Cotton 12 2-5 26
Mike Kupper 2 2-3 6
Steve Fortunato 0 0-0 0
Preston Dawson 4 2-4 12.
Totals: 24 6-11 57.

Tyrone Steals 4 1-2 9
Nick Klein 6 2-3 17
Stephen Richardson 0 0-0 0
Tonio Fulena 4 0-1 9
Rodney Parchman 2 2-2 6
Corey Eggleston 2 0-0 4
Jordan Gentsy 1 0-0 2
Mike Cox 3 3-3 9
Michael Bongivengo 0 2-2 2.
Totals: 22 10-13 58.

CENTER 13 11 21 12 — 57
NEW CASTLE 18 15 15 10 — 58

3-point goals — Center 3 (Dawson 2, Nohe 1), New Castle 4 (Klein 3, Fulena 1).
JV score: Center 46, New Castle 41. High scorer: NC — Corey Eggleston 19.
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