Lady ’Canes, Hopewell ready for Round Three
Mar 05, 2010
By RON PONIEWASZ JR.
rponiewasz@ncnewsonline.com

Sound the bell. Round three is ready to begin.
The New Castle High girls basketball team is seeking a second straight WPIAL Class AAA championship. However, the Lady ’Canes must go through a nemesis — Hopewell.
The Lady Vikings swept their WPIAL Section 2-AAA rivals this year — but only by a combined three points.
At 3 p.m. Saturday, the teams will battle for a third time in the WPIAL championship game at Duquesne University’s A.J. Palumbo Center.

GETTING HERE
Top-seeded Hopewell (25-0) is the only team, regardless of gender or classification, to have finished the regular season unbeaten. The Lady Vikings are ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL in Class AAA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“Hopewell is a tremendous team with senior leadership,” first-year Lady ’Canes coach Jason Rankin said. “They’re not big but they play incredibly hard on offense and defense.
“They’re not 25-0 because they’ve thrown in 25 buzzer beaters. They beat some good teams and won some close games.”
The Lady Vikings own a 48-47 verdict over the second-seeded Lady ’Canes at home, and a 64-62 overtime victory on New Castle’s home floor. Neither team led by more than six points in either contest.
“Both teams are very similar and both teams have great athletes,” said Hopewell coach Jeff Homziak, who is in his third year as coach. “The first two games, if you weren’t there, they were worth the price of admission and I expect the third to be the same.
“I think we’re two evenly matched teams and we were just fortunate the ball bounced our way in both games against New Castle.”
Six teams qualify out of Class AAA for the state playoffs, three of which will come from Section 2-AAA. Blackhawk will join Hopewell and New Castle in the state playoffs.
“Our section had two very good teams all year,” Rankin said. “There were only three losses all year by the top two teams and that says a lot for our section.
“Blackhawk is pretty good, too.”

WHAT’S AT STAKE
New Castle, ranked No. 2 in the WPIAL in Class AAA by the Post-Gazette, is on a quest for a fourth WPIAL crown as well, the first two came in Quad-A and last year’s was at the Class AAA level. The two narrow losses to Hopewell just adds to the suspense.
“I think we’re hungry to have another shot at Hopewell, but another part of it is we all want to repeat as district champions,” Rankin said. “We’ve had every intention of winning the WPIAL title since we started practicing.
“Revenge is a factor, but my biggest fear is we worry about revenge and then we’re not worried about winning the championship.”

HOPEWELL’S LEADERS
Paige Alviani, a 5-foot-8, senior guard, paces Hopewell’s offense. Alviani is averaging 18.8 points and 4.2 assists a game. She netted nine points in the first matchup and 30 more in the overtime encounter. Alviani drained four 3-pointers in the second game.
“She’s a quality player,” Rankin said. “She’s a great leader who knows how to continue and keep her focus and stay positive when things aren’t going right.”
Elise Farris, a 5-7 senior guard, is next at 15.5 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. Farris tossed in 18 and 17 points respectively in the two meetings this year.
“She has personally taken it to us as a team, more than any other player that I’ve seen in my time here,” Rankin said. “She’s been very tough and she gets her points in a variety of ways. She gives maximum effort all the time.”
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, just a freshman, contributes 13.7 points and a team-high 9.5 boards a game for the Lady Vikings.

NEW CASTLE’S ATTACK
Kaylynn Waters, a 5-7, sophomore guard, directs the New Castle attack, scoring17.6 markers a game with a team-high 40 3-pointers. She has 3.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.5 steals a contest as well.
Waters registered 19 points in the first game and nine more in the second.
“That kid can do everything,” Homziak said. “She’s an all-around athlete and she can shoot off the dribble.
“Waters is deceivingly quick. If you give her time to spot up, she can knock the shot down.”
LaShauna Brothers, a 5-10 junior forward, is next at 16 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. Brothers drained 19 points in the first matchup and 23 in the home battle.
“She’s definitely an inside-outside threat,” Homziak said. “Brothers is the heartbeat of the team. How she goes, so goes the team.”
JaNia McPhatter, a 5-8, junior guard/forward, also is in double figures at 11.1 points a contest, while notching 7.4 rebounds.
“McPhatter is a pure athlete that I don’t think has realized her potential just yet,” Homziak said. “When she does, it can be very scary for teams.”
Christina Talbert, a 5-7 sophomore guard, is approaching double figures for the Lady ’Canes, posting 9.9 points a matchup. She has netted 13 points in each of New Castle’s three WPIAL playoff games.
Injury and ailments have plagued the Lady ’Canes of late. Zynieckia Bester sprained her ankle against Hampton in the quarterfinals, but she played in the semifinals. Waters has been battling pneumonia, while McPhatter is trying to shake a bad cold. Rankin doesn’t see any of those items being an issue Saturday.
“Bester is getting better each day; she’s able to run and is fine overall,” he said. “We’re still battling the coughs and coughing issues, but they’re fine.
“Once they start running and the cardio kicks in, the coughs come. In another day we should be fine. Those things aren’t going to be an excuse.”
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