Lady ’Canes crush Ambridge
New Castle (65) Vs. Ambridge (39)

The section title is within reach for the New Castle High girls basketball team.

The Lady ’Canes cruised to a 65-39 victory over Ambridge last night in WPIAL Section 2-AAA action at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House.

“As coaches, we said we wanted to keep them under 40,” New Castle coach Luann Grybowski said. “We felt if we could keep them under 40 it would be a good accomplishment.

“I’m proud of the girls; they played well.”

New Castle (5-1 section, 13-2 overall) takes a one-game lead over the Lady Bridgers (4-2, 9-6), Hopewell (4-2, 13-3) and Blackhawk (4-2, 8-9).
The Lady ’Canes need one more win or a loss by Center (1-5, 6-8) to secure a playoff spot.

“It’s always better to play with a lead than to play from behind,” Grybowski said of the prospects of winning a section title. “Naturally, we want to stay where we are.

“We want to continue to play well. One step at a time is what I tell them; one game at a time.”

The victory avenged a 58-56 setback to Ambridge on Dec. 22. The Lady ’Canes are ranked No. 2 in the WPIAL in Class AAA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and they are receiving honorable mention status in the PIAA poll. They were ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL before falling to top-ranked (Class AAAA) Mount Lebanon on Saturday, 54-49.

“We knew we couldn’t afford to lose to them again,” said sophomore forward LaShauna Brothers of the rematch with Ambridge. “We played our hearts out.

“We struggled down there on both ends of the court that night and knew we had to step up our game.”

New Castle took control early, going on a 9-0 run for a 9-3 margin with 5:55 to play in the opening quarter. The Lady ’Canes led 19-12 after one and stretched it to 33-17 at the break.

“We knew what we had to do,” said senior guard Shelby Rodgers. “We picked it up with our pressure defense.”

New Castle, which committed 25 turnovers, began to get sloppy in the second quarter. The Lady ’Canes turned it over eight times in the stanza and could have enjoyed a bigger halftime bulge.

“I thought we had a lot of unforced turnovers and we have to cut those down,” Grybowski said. “That’s way too many turnovers for me; our goal for my team is 12 or less.

“I told them at halftime we probably should have been up by 30.”

Kaylynn Waters, a freshman guard, led New Castle with 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting. She buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer to close the first half. Waters also had eight rebounds, three assists and three steals.

“I think it was the dagger,” Grybowski said of Waters’ 3-pointer to end the opening half. “I thought we did some good things, but that was obviously a huge 3 because at 13, they’re close to getting it to two possessions and it’s a different game.”

Waters netted 13 of her markers in the first half.

“Coach said we played good in the first half but she wanted us to pick it up in the second half,” Waters said. “She wanted us to come out with more enthusiasm.”

The Lady ’Canes committed eight more turnovers in the third quarter, but they extended the lead to 45-26 after three stanzas.

Rodgers added 16 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals. She was 6 of 14 from the field and tallied 10 of her points in the second half. Four of her field goals came from behind the arc.

“We were practicing for the zone,” Rodgers said. “They did it down there and they’ve been playing it most of the year so we were expecting it.”

Brothers chipped in with 14 markers, 11 boards and nine steals.

“Brothers and Rodgers both played exceptionally well,” Grybowski said. “Shelby hit some big shots; LaShauna rebounded well and hit some big shots.”

Rodgers will be honored Tuesday at halftime of New Castle’s boys varsity game against Section 2-AAA-leading Blackhawk. Rodgers earned the ESPN 1250 Army Athlete of the Week award by virtue of online fan voting for her performance the week of Dec. 8 when she canned six 3-pointers in a 64-60 overtime win over North Catholic.

“Shelby does some great things,” Grybowski said. “I’m glad that she’s playing for me and that I don’t have to coach against her.”

The Lady ’Canes return to action at 2:30 p.m. Saturday when they host Hampton in a nonsection matchup.
Game Scoreboard
New Castle 19 14 12 20 0 65
Ambridge 12 5 9 13 0 39
Box Scores
Lexi Fontana 2 1-2 5
Erin Smith 4 1-2 9
Kayla Haslett 2 0-0 5
Courtney Parisi 0 1-2 1
Kristin Collins 0 0-0 0
Precious McCracken 2 2-4 6
Sam Santiago 1 0-2 2
Amber Borkowski 2 0-0 5
Rachel Deiter 3 0-0 6.
Totals: 16 5-12 39.

Kaylynn Waters 8 0-0 21
LaShauna Brothers 7 0-0 14
JaNia McPhatter 5 2-2 12
Jazelle Dennis 0 2-2 2
Shelby Rodgers 6 0-2 16
Lynette Fish 0 0-0 0
Ashley DeHass 0 0-0 0
Zynieckia Bester 0 0-0 0
Christina Talbert 0 0-0 0
Alyssa Slade 0 0-0 0
Delvona Dennis 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 26 4-6 65.

AMBRIDGE 12 5 9 13 — 39
NEW CASTLE 19 14 12 20 — 65

3-point goals — Ambridge 2 (Haslett 1, Barkowski 1), New Castle 9 (Waters 5, Rodgers 4).
JV score: New Castle 54, Ambridge 22. High scorer: NC — Christina Talbert 12, Kaylynn Waters 12.

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