’Canes set sights in section title
New Castle (73) Vs. Ambridge (52)
By RON PONIEWASZ JR.
The streak is nearing an end.
The New Castle High boys basketball team is on the verge of snapping a two-year postseason drought.
The Red Hurricane pulled away last night to claim a 73-52 victory over Ambridge in WPIAL Section 2-AAA action at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House.
The win propels New Castle (6-2 section, 11-5) into sole possession of second place, just a half-game behind Blackhawk (6-1, 10-5). Ambridge (5-3, 7-9) is in a third-place tie with Center (5-3, 8-6).
Hopewell is in fifth place and the ’Canes own a sweep of the season series. One win for New Castle or a loss by the Vikings sews up a postseason berth for the ’Canes.
“Our sights are still on a section title,” New Castle coach Mark Stanley said. “Our work is not done yet, we have to be able to handle success.”
New Castle, winners of seven in a row, avenged a 57-51 setback on the Bridgers’ home floor in mid-December.
“We wanted to get that win back,” New Castle’s Tyrone Steals said. “We shouldn’t have lost that first time around.”
The ’Canes broke a 5-5 tie by forging an 18-9 lead after one quarter and they never trailed the rest of the way. Steals helped get the hosts off to a strong start, scoring eight of his team-high 19 points in the stanza.
“That 5-0 lead we had needs to be 18-0,” Stanley said. “But you have to give Ambridge credit, they’re playing hard too.”
Said Steals, “You have to get the game started quickly and you have to end the right way. We were pressuring the ball and doing a good job of it.”
Nick Klein buried 3-pointers on consecutive possessions in the second period as New Castle built a 30-17 buffer with 3:08 to go in the half.
“Nick’s been doing it for us all year,” Stanley said. “I give him a lot of credit, he can shoot and guys are finding him and he’s knocking it down.
“He’s as solid of a shooter as I’ve coached. When it leaves his hand, I believe it’s in. He’s consistent and will knock it down if he’s open.”
Klein followed Steals’ effort with 13 points, with all four of his field goals 3-pointers. It’s the second straight game he drained four treys.
Klein had success against Ambridge in the previous encounter as well, recording 20 points, 18 of which came on 3-pointers.
“They were back in that same zone again,” Klein said. “I thought they would change it, but they didn’t and we were able to do it to them again.
“Everybody was hitting and we were all playing well.”
New Castle settled for a 38-24 advantage at the break and built the lead to 20 at 53-33 late in the third stanza.
However, Jamison Gibson wouldn’t let the Bridgers, who trailed 55-38 after three quarters, go down quietly. Gibson opened the fourth period by nailing a pair of 3-pointers and Ambridge crept within at 11 at 55-44 with 7:04 to go.
“Gibson played great; he’s a senior and he’s supposed to play that way,” Bridgers coach Bill Minear said.
“Said Stanley, “You have to locate him. Those 3s could have turned out to be heartbreakers. You have to step up and get a hand in his face.”
New Castle put the game away with an 11-1 run to build a 66-45 lead with 3:45 remaining.
“Coach Stanley did a nice job, I give him a lot of credit,” Minear said. “He did his homework and they did really well executing his game plan; they look like the best team in the section right now.”
Rodney Parchman was instrumental in the fourth quarter for the ’Canes, bucketing nine of his 12 points. Tonio Fulena chipped in with 11 markers, including eight in the second half.
“Our guards found Rodney,” Stanley said. “We needed him to step up in the fourth quarter and he did.”
Tonight’s New Castle game scheduled against Freeport was postponed. The teams may try and reschedule for later in the season.
The ’Canes return to section action at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Beaver.
“They play really tough down there,” Stanley said of Beaver. “You can’t take anything for granted.
“If you go down there and they knock you off, they could knock you out of the section title race. We’ll have to be ready to play.”