New Castle dropping to Class AAA in basketball
Dec 13, 2007

The numbers worked against the New Castle High boys basketball team.

Competition wasn’t the problem for the Red Hurricane. Declining enrollment figures were.

In a 9-0 vote last night, the New Castle Area School Board backed coach Mark Stanley’s request to drop from PIAA Class AAAA to Class AAA. The change will be made as part of the PIAA’s realignment for the 2008-09 basketball season.

The girls basketball team is not affected by the move.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association uses student population figures from grades 9-11 to determine classifications.

Based on an enrollment of 460 males, New Castle is considered a Class AAA competitor. High schools with 273 to 486 males make up that group.
A school can upgrade its classification but cannot move down. New Castle competes in the PIAA’s District 7.

“I think New Castle can compete with anybody at any level,” the first-year ’Canes coach said. “But when you get further out in the state, it becomes more difficult, and it’s not fair to the kids.

“Football is already there (in Class AAA), and we want to give these kids every opportunity to bring home a state title.”

New Castle athletic director Sam Flora said he agreed with Stanley’s logic.

“When John Sarandrea was coaching, he always wanted to play up,” he said. “When Stanley first came in during conditioning, he decided that’s what he wanted to do (Class AAA).”

Girls basketball coach Luann Grybowski did not request a change. With 441 females students in the high school, the girls squad easily falls into the Class AAA grouping (265 to 456 students).

Board approval was a formality. The district notified the PIAA of its intentions last week.

“We should have been AAA since right after John (Sarandrea) got here (in 1992),” board member Mark Kirkwood said. “He always wanted to be in the best class.”

Stanley and Flora agreed that the move down doesn’t translate into lesser competition.

“I guarantee you a lot of Quad-A schools are still going to call New Castle and want to play us,” Stanley said. “Butler, Seneca Valley, they’ve already called and want to be a part of our schedule, and we want them on our schedule.”

A potential playoff run in the WPIAL and the PIAA would be an advantage to the ’Canes as a Class AAA team, Flora added.

“The road to Harrisburg is maybe a lit bit easier than in Quad-A. Not to say AAA wouldn’t be, but I think that was Mark Stanley’s feelings.”

Kirkwood noted that the addition of Philadelphia’s inner-city and Catholic schools to Class AAAA would have made a trip to the state tournament a bit bumpier.

“In AAA, you won’t face that,” he said. “In the long run, your chances to get through the tournament are better.”

If the board had voted against the move, that would not have been a problem for Stanley.

“Everybody is all on the same page,” he said. We’ve decided it’s time.

“If they had said let’s stay in Quad-A, I’d have respected their decision, but we were all in agreement.”

(Sports writer Ron Poniewasz contributed to this article.)

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