New Castle overcomes nervers for WPIAL section tit
New Castle (49) Vs. Ambridge (35)
Feb 12, 2011
By JOE SAGER
It’s not often that nerves affect the New Castle High girls basketball team.
They did last night.
No worries, though, as the Lady ’Canes composed themselves enough to beat Ambridge, 49-35, and clinch the WPIAL Section 2-AAA championship at home. It’s New Castle’s fifth section crown in the last eight seasons.
“We did enough. We didn’t play well. We just didn’t seem to have the energy,” New Castle coach Jason Rankin said. “I am not sure if it was nerves at some point in time or whether we just felt like we were better than them. I thought we played hard at times; we just didn’t play hard all the time.”
LaShauna Brothers, one of four senior Lady ’Canes playing their last home game, admitted New Castle had some butterflies entering the game even though the veteran players have been in plenty of pressure situations during consecutive WPIAL title runs the past two years.
“I was a little nervous; we all were. We just had to get the nerves out,” she said. “It’s really emotional. You have good times and bad times, but when it’s over for your last home game, you never regret anything. To win feels good. Emotionally, we’re happy to get to a goal we wanted. But, it’s not over.”
The Lady ’Canes (11-1 section, 18-3 overall) have one nonsection game remaining — at Butler on Monday — before they begin their quest for a third-straight WPIAL championship.
“One of our first goals, obviously, is to be section champs,” Rankin said. “This is a special group because we went through six years together. We did junior high together and AAU and Super Bowl parties and Christmas parties. Beyond the fabric of my life — they are like my own. I was happy to see us end on a good note. One door closes and another one opens. The door closes on our section season. Now, the thing we’ve been battling for and the thing we want is that third-straight WPIAL title, which would be something. I haven’t seen it happen too often in girls basketball. So, we have a shot at history.”
New Castle posted a 14-10 lead over the Lady Bridgers (10-2, 15-6) at the end of the first. Ambridge, which tied Blackhawk for second in the section, trimmed it to 14-12 before the Lady ’Canes went on an 11-0 spree. The burst gave New Castle a 25-12 edge with 4:51 left in the half.
The Lady ’Canes carried a 29-21 lead into halftime and increased it to 40-31 through three quarters. New Castle picked up its defensive intensity in the fourth and limited Ambridge to just two baskets to seal the win.
“I think sometimes you do become a victim of your own success. When you win and have everybody back, it’s hard to go through the grind of a season,” Rankin said. “We have a target on our backs and the kids have to understand that. We talk about it all the time, but it doesn’t always register. Now that we’ve almost gone through the regular season, I think it’s the playoffs we’re looking forward to.
“I think we’ll be more focused because I think we got a lot closer to the goal. The third game of the season, we still had 19 games left. Now, if things work out, we have four games to the WPIAL title.”
Ja’Nia McPhatter tallied a game-high 15 points for the Lady ’Canes. Brothers finished with 14, while Christina Talbert scored 11.