Jon's Blog
If a hoop is made in a gym and no one is there ...
Dec 04, 2007
It would seem that the first weekend of basketball for New Castle High School would have the field house packed, waiting to see this year’s team.

Not exactly.

Friday night’s girls opener started around 5:30 and not many people were there. That’s understandable, since girls draw far less than the boys and people have to work.

The boys tip was just after 8 p.m. and it was a better showing, just not a packed house.

It was OK for an opening night. Not too loud, but supportive.

Then came Saturday.

The New Castle girls played in the Tipoff Tournament championship against Hopewell, a team coming off back-to-back PIAA Class AAA state championships, at 4 p.m. One would think that it would be a nice game to see before the boys championship at 6.


Other than some players’ friends and family members, the stands were bare.

The boys championship between the New Castle boys and Altoona was even more disappointing, with the stands being at least 60 percent empty.

As one former Red Hurricane player said as he walked into the gym, “Man, I’d be embarrassed.”

Good luck, Mark Stanley.


Last year at this time, the New Castle girls were coming off a 70-12 win over Beaver Falls.

Yes, 70-12!

In retrospect, it wasn’t even that close. The Lady Tigers score eight of their 12 points in the fourth quarter with the Lady ’Canes playing ninth-graders.

Friday night brought another loss, 61-40, but a much, much more improved team showed up for Beaver Falls.

“They are 120 percent better than last year,” New Castle coach Luann Grybowski said after the game. She made it a point to go to Beaver Falls’ locker room and deliver that message personally.

“They are much more competitive and should have a good season. From last year I was impressed,” Grybowski said.

The Lady Tigers snuck into the Class AA playoffs last year. Look for better things this year.


One of the more interesting developments in the early going is the play of the Neshannock boys, who lost two games in their own tournament.

Mercifully, Beaver County Christian wasn’t invited this year.

The Lancers dropped an overtime game to Union in the opener, then lost 67-57 to West Middlesex in the consolation game — something coach Jim Smiley could not have seen coming with five starters returning.

Mike Conglose was a bright spot, averaging a hair under 20 points per game over the weekend.

Look for him to be one of the top scorers in the county this season.

By the way, when Neshannock defeated Frew Mill last night, do you think any of the Lancer Lunatics made T-shirts that read “Cake-Eaters vs. Convicts?”

Just asking.


Either Will Harris should get coach of the year honors right now, or Tidoutte Prep Charter needs to re-evaluate its basketball program.

Harris, the Wilmington boys basketball coach, managed to defeat Tidoutte (I have no clue where it is either), 72-37, without eight football players who would normally play huge minutes for his team.

Ryan Foht scored 33 points and Ian Kelly added 17, but both played some varsity last season. The other scoring came from junior varsity players, who otherwise probably would not see any varsity time.

With this experience, it can only get better down the road for Wilmington.

But, c’mon Tidoutte Prep Charter, get in the game!

No wonder John Sarandrea won’t return your calls.


Last season was a disaster for coach Jen McGarrah and her Laurel girls basketball team.

They were really, really young and finished 5-17.

The best thing about a young team: eventually they get older.

And this year, the experience is paying off, as McGarrah feels confident enough to install a full-court press defense and an up-tempo offense.

With all the experience, it also allows McGarrah to go deep into her bench, as 10 girls played in the first quarter of Monday night’s 58-33 win over Union. Laurel forced 30 turnovers and consistently got fast-break opportunities.

As Chris Brown would say, “Run It.”

(Jon Geramita covers high school sports for

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